Shocked doesn’t begin to describe what Heal the Bay staff felt Friday when we opened the Coastal Cleanup Day trash bags sent to us by the California Coastal Commission. Betrayed isn’t quite right either. Nauseous is more like it.
The plastic trash bags included the logos of some of our biggest opponents in the fight against marine debris: the American Chemistry Council, California Film Extruders and Converters Assn. and other plastics producers. Coastal Cleanup Day – brought to you by the very polluters that are causing the global marine debris crisis.
These providers of the products that perpetuate society’s addiction to single-use packaging have spent millions of dollars fighting against us every step of the way on marine debris legislation at the state and local level. These companies have opposed plastic bag legislation locally, statewide and even in various cities around the country. Also, these same companies have opposed legislation to reduce carcinogenic chemicals in plastic baby and toddler products and blown polystyrene bans at the local and state level.
The cleanup bags included the offensive taglines “Please recycle plastic retail bags at large grocery stores” and “Keep our oceans clean. Plastics. Too Valuable to Waste. Recycle.” And we all know what a joke the plastic bag recycling program has been, with a paltry 5% of plastic bags actually getting recycled.
I’d like to sit here and blame the California Coastal Commission for being so desperate for funding that they took money from the No. 1 sources of beach pollution. However, we at Heal the Bay should know better.
We’ve seen through inaction and legislative vetoes that this state administration is not moving forward on implementing the Ocean Protection Council’s comprehensive and far-reaching Marine Debris Action Plan. As a state agency working for an administration that is selling California landmarks to try to close the budget gap, the Coastal Commission would take money from anyone to keep Coastal Cleanup Day going.
We were lulled to complacency because the marine life Murderers Row was not listed as an event sponsor. The genius of the plastic packaging industry is that they purchased the plastic bags and branded them with greenwashing messages. They purchased their messaging in a way to make it visible at beaches and rivers.
The fact we didn’t take the initiative to look at the cartons holding the bags in advance and then return them to the Commission is our fault. Heck, if we noticed the bags before Friday afternoon, we would have replaced them at our own cost at cleanup sites throughout the county.
But we didn’t. And on behalf of everyone at Heal the Bay, I apologize to all of you — over 14,000 — that took time out on Saturday collecting 150 tons of trash to make a difference in your community for Los Angeles County’s rivers, beaches and bays. I promise you, we won’t get fooled again.