Ex-Astronaut Jose Hernandez backs plastic bag ban José M. Hernández and Hans JohnsonOpinion: Plastic bag ban supported by science and conscience

Like familiar hands on the shoulder, two phrases imparted by parents and grandparents often guide the best decisions: Use your head. And listen to your heart.

This year, Californians can heed both counsels by supporting our statewide ban on throwaway plastic bags.

Our Legislature made a well-informed decision in 2014 to ban polyethylene grocery sacks that pollute our ecosystem. Now, some out-of-state polluters who profit from the estimated 14 billion waste-making plastic bags handed annually to Californians aim to undo our progress. We have a responsibility to say "yes" to the ban and reject their assault on it.

Nearly two-thirds of Californians support the law. It is the first statewide ban in our country, built on more than 130 existing city and county bans to stem the tide of plastic pollution in our state.

Throwaway bags cost local taxpayers millions of dollars each year to remove from storm drains. Their dangers were dramatized last year in Los Angeles when a flash flood engulfed homes and businesses after plastic bags contributed to clogging a catch basin.

We grew up knowing infants can suffocate from plastic bags, which now carry a legally required warning. We also see the ugly blight that blow-away bags inflict on streets, trees and neighborhoods. Millions of shoppers have shifted to reusable bags, some made locally, with no loss of convenience or lasting trail of contamination in our communities. The ban is common sense.

But two other forces weigh strongly in support of the statewide ban: science and conscience.

The scientific truth is that throwaway plastic bags plague the natural world and never fully break down. In California, it's not uncommon to turn up discolored pieces of polyethylene or intact plastic bags when we till the ground to plant gardens or make sand castles on the beach.

Billions of plastic bags entering our state's waste stream each year despoil streambeds and the ocean while harming wildlife. Ingesting polyethylene is contributing to a death spiral for some turtles and other species. That fails our moral compact with Mother Earth. To knowingly tarnish our Golden State betrays our role as stewards.

Manufacturers of plastic bags from outside California show no such scruples. They are spending millions of dollars to undo the law and keep profits flowing from throwaway plastic bags that foul our state.

Disclosure reports from the secretary of state show that in the past four months alone, they added more than $1.7 million to their war chest to attack the law, SB 270, in the statewide referendum in November.

Frustrated by strong public support for the law, plastic polluters are mounting a secondary assault on the terms of the ban through a parallel initiative that would require a "no" vote to stop. That would complicate instructions to those marking ballots to save the bag ban, so polluters are banking on this scheme to confuse voters and nullify the law. Such a desperate maneuver insults Californians' intelligence and undermines sour democratic process.

Actively supporting the statewide ban on throwaway plastic bags throughout this year is one way to make a positive difference for a cleaner environment and strengthen our growing industry in reusable bags.

Science and conscience weigh mightily on the scales of justice in favor of the ban. Because of out-of-state polluters barging in to tilt those scales the other way, Californians need to weigh in with a "yes" vote for justice to be done.

José M. Hernández, a former astronaut for whom a San José middle school is named, is president of Tierra Luna Engineering, an aerospace consulting firm in Stockton. Hans Johnson is president of Progressive Victory and founder of the Institute for Smart Waste Policy. They wrote this for this newspaper.

 

Originally Published here.


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