Sac State students against plastic bag use


James Alamillo works up the crowd at a rally staged before the LA City Council vote to ban plastic bags in Los Angeles, California, on May 23, 2012 (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Isabel Ward

Sacramento State students are sending a message to local government and advocating a halt on plastic bag usage on campus in order to promote a healthier, cleaner environment.

Freshman electrical and electronic engineering major Andrew Saechao, who has researched the overuse of plastic bags on campus, said Sac State can contribute to ending the use of plastic bags.

“I think we’ll make a huge difference at Sac State. I mean, we talked to the bookstore director recently and she said she’s willing to completely ban plastic bags, but (she is) waiting on the California bill to ban plastic bags in stores,” Saechao said. “So Sac State is a good start for getting our voice heard on plastic bags.”

Sophomore kinesiology major Jordyn Love, who has assisted in the research of plastic bag use, said the bookstore goes through an estimated 7,500 plastic bags during the early semester rush and about 2,000 during the rest of the semester.

“I just think everybody should be aware of (the usage of plastic bags) because they’re contributing to it,” Love said.  “The only way to stop the problem is to look at it and see how they’re contributing to it, because it’s something that affects everybody.”

According to Californians Against Waste, The Single-Use Bag Carry Out Bags is a bill that prohibits single-use plastic bags, while charging for reusable, paper and compostable plastic bags. By doing this, it seeks to reduce the cost of environmental litter by its enactment beginning January 1, 2015.

The Californians Against Waste website states, “Plastic bags are a true menace to our ecosystems and our waste diversion goals. Barely recyclable, almost all of the 400 plastic bags used per second in the state are discarded. Once discarded, they either enter our landfills or our marine ecosystem.”

Senior environmental science major Clara Crossman said out of paper bags and plastic bags, she prefers paper because it takes plastic bags a long time to disintegrate, and when they do, it is easier for animals to eat the particles.

“I work on the shorelines a lot (in) California and I see the effect of plastic bags on seabirds and on sea life,” Crossman said. “I’m for the ban – just for environmental reasons. And I’m also for the ban as a way to start getting plastic out of our basic economy.”

San Francisco was the first city in the nation to adopt a ban on plastic shopping bags in April 2007, according to Californians Against Waste.

The Alameda County ordinance is to decrease carryout bags and promote reusable bags to reduce the amount of environmental waste.

Love said paper is not the solution to the pollution either.

“Plastic is not beneficial for the environment. It causes pollution, harms the animals and uses up our resources,” Love said.  “And paper is not that good to use either for the same reasons.”

Reusable bags, however, are a good alternative in order to promote less waste, Love said.

Senior psychology major Chelsea Lewis said seeing campaign pictures showing plastic bags over the ocean impacts her in a way that makes her want to use reusable bags.

“I think (plastic bags) are pointless, especially when we have a different option,” Lewis said. “So it’s not like taking them away would cause any kind of problem to most people at all.”

Crossman said she prefers using reusable bags, also.

“One – you only have to buy them once and they pay for themselves pretty quickly, especially if you have a tax on (the plastic bags). Two – they’re much more reusable than paper bags. They don’t disintegrate as easily when there’s wet stuff in them like paper bags do. And three – you can wash them,” Crossman said.

Another option is for students to carry out items themselves.

Love said the policy at most places on campus is to ask if students want a bag.

“The main thing that (students) can do – which is probably the easiest for them – is just to carry out their smaller items,” Love said. “Like today, I went to the bookstore and bought a shirt. They asked if I wanted a bag or not and I said no. I just carried it out because that would just be a waste of a bag.”

The Alameda County ordinance states plastic bags carry not only the hazard of pollution in environments and marine debris, but they also block storm drains.

Saechao said that because plastic can clog drainage systems and Sacramento is prone to flooding, people should think about how using plastic bags will impact the area.

“We all live on this planet right? So we should all be aware of how we’re affecting this world,” Saechao said.