So, plastic bags. They’re winning, people. You know what I mean: The plastic bags you have stuffed under a sink or in one of those cute bag holder things someone gave you or knitted you or made from an old bedsheet or whatever. Those bags are winning the war under your sink, in your pantry, or wherever you store them, and, if your house is anything like mine, they’re going to take over that space right around the time we light the fireworks for Gulfport’s Fourth of July party. And that’s for those of us who own and attempt to use reusable cloth bags. For the rest of you, world domination should come about six weeks before that.
OK, so that’s a joke, but seriously, those fucking bags cause more problems than they’re worth. When you live so close to water, they tend to find their way into every available body of water. It’s not for lack of education: We all know the hazards plastic bags pose to our local waters. Turtles mistake them for jellyfish and eat them, and then they die, because the bags block their digestive tract (seems jellyfish get digested lots easier than bags) or their esophagus or they choke. Plus, plastic – all plastic, even the recycled stuff, especially the recycled stuff – requires petrochemicals for manufacturing (or remanufacturing), so we’re getting that in the water, which is a lovely bonus, really. Plastic: The Gift That Keeps on Giving.
A few years back, when Sam Henderson, Gulfport’s current mayor and former Ward Four councilman, suggested the city look at a plastic bag ban, I thought he was the best thing since government cheese. But then nothing happened, and I never knew why. At first, I thought some big, bad, corporate plastic bag lobby had spent a gazillion dollars to shut down the mere thought of such a ban, but then I remembered that we were Gulfport and not Manhattan, and that the idea of anyone spending money to silence anything here would be laughable, so I figured I was just being paranoid.
You’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you.
See, I was half right. No one paid off the council to not ban bags, but in 2008 the Florida legislature passed a ban on bag bans, because, well, Florida. Now, only the state can regulate bags, not cities or counties. But now one brave fool in our legislature wants to undo it, sort of. David Richardson (D-Miami-Dade) filed a bill that would give small Florida towns (towns with under 10,000 people, which is 298 of the Florida’s 410 cities) the right to regulate plastic bag use.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? I mean, yes, El Cap has a great point: Any city within x miles of the water should have that right. That’s not happening because it would be every city in Florida and apparently we’re kind of dicks about turtles in the Sunshine State, which is weird because we act like we love turtles. Apparently that love extends only to “lights out for sea turtles” and not “no bags for choking turtles or making them slowly starve to death or blocking their esophagus.”
Wait, you say, why are you being so harsh? A ban on the ban on the ban means we love turtles, and there’s a bill in the legislature right now to ban the ban on the ban. Because, I say, in California, the plastic bag lobby has spent almost $40 per signature on a petition to overturn the existing ban on plastic bags. So if this ban on ban on bans (seriously, my head hurts) goes through the process, corporate America will launch into what it does best – screwing the environment, promising to call the next day, and then leaving it nothing but a scorching case of herpes. Because, well, America.
However, hope – even in my calloused soul – springs eternal, and if you want to get involved to help further what I shall forever more call the Tri-Ban (it’s just easier), the Surfrider foundation has a way for you to do that. Because you can bet the plastics industry is ready to fight the fight at the other end.
Mayor Henderson had the right idea. In 2008, our legislature did not. So far, the turtles are losing. The good news? Corporate America has a great bottom line. Because millions of shareholders can’t be wrong.
Read my (somewhat) newsier take on the Tri-Ban.