Archive for September, 2009
By Tracy Seipel
As the San Jose City Council prepares to vote this fall on whether to ban plastic and paper shopping bags, a new study being released today underscores the growing problem of plastic trash in Bay Area waterways, including Coyote Creek.
The creek, which runs through parts of unincorporated Santa Clara County as well as Morgan Hill, San Jose and Milpitas before emptying into San Francisco Bay, is among the Top 10 “Bay Trash Hot Spots” of 2009 named in the study by Save The Bay.
The environmental advocacy group’s fourth annual list of polluted area waterways was compiled based on the number of plastic bags volunteers removed from those sites during last year’s Coastal Cleanup Day. All told, 184 tons of waste were collected from the bay, including more than 26,000 plastic bags. About 1,100 bags were collected from Coyote Creek alone.
Save The Bay estimates that 1 million plastic bags end up in the bay annually.
“On that day alone, 15,000 bags were removed from just these 10 spots,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save The Bay. Countless others, he said, blow and wash into creeks and storm drains that carry them into the bay.
Lewis is asking Bay Area mayors to prioritize legislation that would end the distribution of free single-use bags, both plastic and paper, and require residents to switch to reusable bags.
“I think the support for this is very strong in San Jose,” Lewis said.
Last month, a four-member San Jose City Council committee agreed to push forward on a proposed ordinance directing major grocery stores and big-box retailers to stop giving out plastic bags. Paper bags made with mostly recycled materials would be allowed, but only for a fee. The council has asked city staff to study the issue before drafting an ordinance.
Mayor Chuck Reed said the city should “work together with the entire county on some sort of uniform ordinance. San Jose alone can’t solve this problem.”
In the Bay Area, only San Francisco and Palo Alto have enacted plastic-bag bans.
Representatives from the plastics industry said they agree that plastic bags should not end up in the waterways, but they say calls for a ban are misguided.
“Plastics don’t belong in the oceans or the watersheds, they belong in the recycling bin,” said Keith Christman, senior director of market advocacy for the plastics division of the American Chemistry Council.
But Lewis of Save The Bay said recycling plastic bags doesn’t work. He points to a California Integrated Waste Management Board estimate that less than 5 percent of all single-use plastic bags in the state are recycled “A lot of it ends up in landfills,” he said.
Christman points to a different study that suggests municipal bans on plastic bags only lead to consumers using more paper bags, which he says require massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions to produce.
Lewis said people can judge the scope of the problem themselves by volunteering for Saturday’s Coastal Cleanup Day, which is organized by the California Coastal Commission. The event takes place from 9 a.m. to noon at sites around the state; for more information, go to www.coastal.ca.gov.
To read Save The Bay’s Top 10 list, go to www.savesfbay.org
The Commission on Taxation has recommended the introduction of a carbon tax to help cut Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.
In a report published this morning [SEPT 7, 2009], the commission said this tax should apply to all carbon-based fuels sold for use in Ireland and should be based on the tonnes of CO2 emitted by each fuel. It said the tax could raise €500 million per year.
“The tax should be clearly visible at the point of final consumption to ensure it is not seen as ‘just another tax’”, the report said.
The Commission said a carbon tax would encourage polluters to cut emissions to save money and encourage innovation. “It is fair in the sense that those who choose to pollute the most, pay the most,” it said.
While there should be no preferential rates, businesses who are involved in the Emissions Trading Scheme should be exempt, it said.
The commission said the tax rate should approximate the current ETS price. It proposes a base price of €20 per tonne of carbon emitted and notes that the ESRI suggested a carbon tax of €20 per tonne could raise €480 million next year and €500 million in 2011.
It encouraged continued research into measures to reduce emissions from agriculture but did not call for a tax on greenhouse gases produced by farming.
Lowering the VAT rate on energy-efficient goods and services should be considered, it added.
“We also recommend that specific arrangements be put in place to ensure that those who experience fuel poverty will be fully protected from the impacts in terms of price rises,” it said.
The Labour Party spokeswoman on environment and climate change Joanna Tuffy said carbon tax should only be introduced “on the basis that they are fair and that they are genuinely aimed at changing our behaviour as users of energy.”
She said she would be “very concerned, despite claims that this tax will be revenue neutral, that these taxes will turn out to be merely revenue-raising”. Ms Tuffy said extra public transport should be provided from the time the tax is introduced to avoid hardship for people living in rural areas.
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