In response to the recent Supreme Court rulings in the United States, Recover is going to release a three-part Sustainability Tips series throughout July on: How to tell your government officials you want them to take action.
To kick off Plastic Free July , we are featuring sustainability tips on how to tell government officials you want a plastic bag ban. For our Sustainability Tips series throughout the month, we will feature tips on taking action on Clean Air and on Women's Rights, as well as some context for why the Supreme Court currently has so much influence and examples of local citizens, government officials, and organizations taking action right now. In the current climate, it is ever more crucial to take action and let government officials know who they represent and what citizens want and expect for our country now and for future generations.
For today, here are your Sustainability Tips on how to tell government officials you want a plastic bag ban. Letting your voice be heard is a first step toward positive change.
Every year, Americans use 100 billion plastic bags, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. That breaks down to each American using an average of 365 plastic bags per person per year. Compare that with Denmark, in which a person uses an average of 4 plastic bags per year. It takes at least 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill, and unfortunately, the bags don't break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment. Switching from plastic bags to reusable bags to address the globe’s plastic crisis is essential- check out Go Old School: Learning more about plastic bags will bring back old habits for more inspiration on how the plastic bag blight came about and why so many people are ditching plastic and committing to reusable bags.
Ultimately, getting rid of plastic bags takes local governments taking action with plastic bag bans- but, it ultimately takes local citizens that speak up and take action to put things in place to help the community.
California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have state and territory-wide plastic bag bans. Colorado is joining the crew soon, as the Colorado General Assembly passed a law banning disposable bags in Colorado, taking effect in 2024. Additionally, over 200 counties and municipalities have enacted ordinances either imposing a fee on plastic bags or outright banning them.
Here’s how to tell your local government officials you want a single-use plastic bag ban:
1. Identify and find contact information for your local government officials.
Look up your town or city government’s staff directory and identify the names and contacts of local government officials who would be relevant to write or call. This would be the mayor, city council members, and officials in any sort of Community Development department.
2. Send a letter.
Never underestimate the power of simply sending a letter to government officials. Sometimes people may think to get involved that they have to take a lot of time to really understand issues deeply, but it can really be much simpler than that. You can write a letter that is one paragraph that describes “this is important and it matters” and that is impactful. Always be sure to clearly state the action you’re looking for, a local mandate to ban all single-use plastic bags or whatever makes the most sense to you in your local context.
This “Ban the Bag” feature provides a great, quick and easy template you can use.
3. Make a call.
Similar to sending a letter, never underestimate calling your local elected officials and having a conversation about instituting a local single-use plastic bag ban. Remember that tangibly being in touch with local officials via phone or letter gives them record and input of what the citizens they represent want, which informs action, especially in considering re-election.
4. Get friends to do the same.
One person calling is great, but ten people calling is even better. Have a letter-writing or phone calling gathering where you are able to share information and enjoy making your voices heard regarding the implementation of a local plastic bag ban and why it’s important.
5. Follow up and make meetings happen.
If you want to take things further, follow up with calls, letters, and scheduling meetings with local government officials to tell them that your town needs a plastic bag ban. Attending town council meetings is a great way to also put a plastic bag ban on the agenda and keep its momentum going. Education about the whys and hows (so easy- replace with reusable bags!) is huge in moving forward efforts for plastic bag bans for community and environmental health.
–We wish you all a Happy Plastic Free July!–