Keep Plastic Out of the Pacific

Trash is killing ocean wildlife

Californians throw away 123,000 tons of plastic bags each year, and too many of them end up as litter in our ocean. Today, there are 100 million tons of trash in the North Pacific Gyre; in some parts of the Pacific, plastic outweighs plankton 6 to 1.

All of this trash in the Pacific is creating an ecological disaster:

  • Turtles and seabirds frequently ingest floating plastic, mistaking it for food. They also get entangled in bags and often drown or die of suffocation.
  • Adult seabirds inadvertently feed small bits of plastic to their chicks — often causing them to starve to death after their stomachs become filled with plastic.
  • Toxic pollutants leach from the plastic into the water. Scientists are now studying whether fish and other marine animals absorb these toxic pollutants. If so, there is a good chance that we also absorb them when we eat fish.

What’s really scary is that scientists tell us this plastic may never biodegrade. And every day we go without tackling this problem, it becomes a little bit worse.

We can stop the waste

Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our oceans for hundreds of years. Californians know this, and are taking action to protect the Pacific.

We’ve made great progress winning local bans and educating the public on the harmful effects of plastic. Today, bags are banned (or soon will be) in more than 100 California communities — and now 1 in 3 Californians are living bag-free. It's a great start, but we’re not stopping until we rid the whole state of plastic bag pollution.

Let's ban the bags statewide!

With more cities banning bags each month, we have the momentum. With your help, we can win a historic victory for our ocean — a statewide ban on plastic bags.

Member support makes it possible for our staff to do research, make our case to the media, reach out to critical constituencies, and help government officials make the right choices for our ocean.

Oceans updates

News Release | Environment California Research & Policy Center

Court of Appeal grants Environment California’s motion, upholds plastic bag ban

San Francisco – The California Court of Appeal has definitely affirmed California’s cities’ right to protect the environment by banning single-use plastic bags. The Court today agreed to publish its unanimously decision to uphold San Francisco’s plastic bag ban in a December 10 decision, creating a legal precedent on which other cities may rely. Today’s ruling sets the stage for more cities to adopt local laws phasing out plastic bags, and to strengthen their existing laws by expanding them to include restaurants.

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News Release | Environment California Research & Policy Center

Plastic Bag Bans Win in Supreme Court Yet Again

San Francisco – The California Supreme Court has denied review of a plastics industry legal challenge to Marin County’s plastic bag ban, allowing the ordinance to stand. The lawsuit, brought by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, an unincorporated association, had challenged the county’s 2011 plastic bag ban under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Lower courts had already unanimously rejected the industry group’s lawsuit.

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News Release | Environment California Research & Policy Center

Marin Plastic Bag Ban Wins in Court

San Francisco – The California Court of Appeal has unanimously upheld Marin County’s plastic bag ban ordinance. The lawsuit, brought by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, an unincorporated association, had challenged the county’s 2011 plastic bag ban under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Actions taken by regulatory agencies to protect the environment or natural resources are typically exempt from CEQA’s requirement to prepare an Environmental Impact Report. As the Court of Appeal made clear, this exemption applies to plastic bag ban ordinances.

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News Release | Environment California Research & Policy Center

Sacramento Ocean Day draws citizens from across the state

On Tuesday, April 16, ocean conservation advocates and experts from across California will convene at the California State Capitol for Ocean Day. Efforts to lessen sea level rise impacts, reduce marine debris, and implement the Marine Life Protection Act have created a groundswell of support for smart and science-based ocean policy. Residents and activists will meet with legislators to send the message that marine conservation should continue to be a priority for the state. With California’s ocean economy driving $43 billion in revenue and nearly 400,000 jobs each year, sustainable management is a wise investment.

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Report | Environment California Research & Policy Center

Leading the Way Toward a Cleaner Ocean

Out in the Pacific Ocean, plastic debris churns in a soup called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an area twice the size of Texas where plastic bits outweigh plankton. Plastic pollution persists for hundreds of years, and can kill turtles, seabirds and other marine animals.
Throw-away plastic bags are a significant part of the problem. To reduce ocean pollution and protect the environment, more than 80 national and local governments across the planet have taken official action to ban throw-away plastic bags or to establish fees or taxes on such bags.

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