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   Home      Countering the Claims
Many exaggerations and outright false claims were made by proponents of the bag ban bill. This page is dedicated to refuting those claims.
 
This section highlights the typical list of claims, such as those by "Save the Bay". Here is their statement about the "Bay vs. the Bag" campaign:
 
Why are plastic bags bad for the Bay?
Plastic bags pollute our waters, smother wetlands and entangle and kill animals. In fact, approximately one million plastic bags pollute San Francisco Bay each year. Bay trash flows into the ocean to join the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area estimated at twice the size of Texas where plastic particles are more abundant than plankton.
 

Did you know?

  • Save The Bay estimates that over one million plastic bags enter the Bay each year.
  • Bay Area residents use 3.8 billion plastic bags every year. 
  • Average use time of a plastic bag is 12 minutes.
  • Despite a 15-year effort to recycle plastic bags, less than five percent of all single-use plastic bags in California are actually recycled.
  • Californians use approximately 19 billion plastic bags annually.
  • 1.37 million plastic bags were removed from coastal areas worldwide on just one day.
  • A study found an average of three pieces of trash along every foot of streams leading to San Francisco Bay – half of which is plastic.
  • Up to 90 percent of floating debris is plastic, which never biodegrades.
  • Plastic trash has entangled, suffocated, or poisoned at least 267 known animal species worldwide.
 
Claim

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, twice the size of Texas
 
 
 

 
 
 
  
 
 
 
One million plastic bags enter the bay each year. 


 
 
 
 
Bay area residents use 3.8 billion plastic bags every year
 

 
 
 
Average use time of a plastic bag is 12 minutes

 
 
  
 
 
Despite a 15 year effort to recycle plastic bags, less than 5 percent are actually recycled.  
 
   
 
Californians use approximately 19 billion plastic bags annually
 
1.37 million plastic bags were removed from coastal areas worldwide in just one day
 
 
  
 
 
A study shows and average of 3 pieces of trash along every foot of streams, half of which is plastic
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Up to 90 percent of floating debris is plastic, which never biodegrades
 
 

 
 
Plastic trash has entangled, suffocated, or poisoned at least 267 known animal species worldwide.
Discussion
This is the classic myth, stated as fact repeatedly. Even Oprah Winfrey discussed this on one of her shows. Only one problem: IT DOES NOT EXIST! The funny (and sad) fact is that no one ever has demanded evidence! Can we fly a helicopter out there and land on this great patch? Should we incorporate it as the 51st state? Anyone ever seen this looking out their window while on a cross-Pacific flight? In a sad irony, it was only about 1 month after San Jose passed the plastic bag ban that the Mercury Newspaper ran an article about a group that spent months out searching for the supposed Great Pacific Garbage Patch and they found NOTHING.
The new claim is that the patch is not really visible, but actually just defined by an arbitrary level of plastic particle relative density (more plastic particles than plankton?). Another classic case of people creating their own definition to suit their needs. 
And oh yes, does this mean that plastic DOES actually break down into small particles? We were told plastic does not break down, and pictured giant mounds of floating trash!
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a hoax. Nothing but the creation of someone's imagination, and pawned off on all of us to make us feel guilty.
But then again, let's say it does exist. What does that have to do with me getting my groceries in a plastic bag, potentially reusing that bag several times, and then properly disposing of the bag in my trash can?
In the least, let's change the name from "Great Pacific Plastic Patch" to "Higher Plastic Particle Density Region".
 
 
This number has never been supported. "At least" one million? Where do they get this number? And where are all of these million bags every year? We should be able to walk from San Francisco to Oakland on top of all of these bags by now! We should be walking knee deep in plastic bags along the shores. And even if you assume that only half of those are washed out to sea, that means we should see about 1,500 bags every day going by the golden gate bridge. They should be piled up at the base of the towers. We should see dozens of them at any point in time going by. Oh yes, then again the tide comes back in half the time too, so we should see many of them coming back in. This is a completely fictitious number, with no substantiation.
 
 
What does this mean? Does this include garbage bags? Laundry bags? Newspaper bags? The population of the bay area is estimated to be 7.4 million. Thus, this means they estimate 513 plastic bags per person per year. Really? They must be counting every single plastic bag used by every person. 
And even if we take this as true, what is the point? Why not count up how many pieces of paper are used every year? Or how many sandwiches are eaten? Or how many CFL bulbs are illegally disposed of? Let's panic over every big number, because it sounds so big and catastrophic!
And let's stop for a minute and do the math. Even if we use the numbers presented by Save the Bay, 3.8 billion bags used with only 1 million (supposedly...) going into the bay, that means 1 out of every 3,800 bags. Really? We must ban people from using bags because one person out of every 3,800 is a bad citizen and litters?
 
So now we must measure items we use by time. Of course, usefulness is not considered. Those thin little plastic bags are very useful for those "12 minutes"! Coffee cups are probably used for less than 5 minutes, but it is a lot more useful than drinking coffee straight from the pot! Plastic bags are very useful, for carrying groceries from the store to your home, and unloading your supplies at home. And, as in ALL of the estimates, they NEVER take into account reusing of the plastic bags. What if parts purchased from Home Depot stay in the bags for 2 weeks, or if you keep the items in the bags while you store them on the shelves. Is any of that time figured in?
 
 
Gee, there was a good use of millions of dollars for 15 years! Finally, they admit that trying to "educate" people about the environmental movement does not work! Ah, so now they must FORCE people to do it. Of course, that is the answer. Those stupid peasants!
(Note to politicians: Here is a great place to cut the budget - environmental "education" and efforts.)
 
See above. This is just the same statistic extrapolated out to all Californians. We are still not sure how all of those bags from Southern California get into the San Francisco bay, but Save the Bay must be concerned.
 
 
Better notify the Guiness Book of World Records! Of course they state in "just one day", but obviously this was likely Earth Day or some day where many volunteers scoured areas. It does NOT mean:
- 1.37 million bags could be cleaned up every day
- All the bags were the dreaded and evil "single use" plastic bags
But seriously, this is good work. We at Save Our Bags do NOT promote litter or waste, and we applaud efforts to clean up the messes by irresponsible people who litter.
 
OK, so let's try to break this down.
"A study" (what study?)
shows an "average" (this means some places have piles of garbage, and they are averaged out among the mostly clean rest of the streams)
"3 pieces of trash alone every foot" (this must mean BOTH sides, which the reader will not at first think)
"half of which is plastic" OK, are we now talking about plastic bottles, bottle caps, plastic wrappers, plastic toys, plastic seats, plastic shrink wrap, etc. etc.? It sounds so drastic until you understand how much of our trash is actually plastic.
Again, what does this have to do with plastic grocery bags? 
 
 
"Up to"? Do you mean they found one patch of floating debris that was 90% plastic somewhere? Hey, here is a question: How much of the floating debris was metal? Or rock? Of course much floating debris is plastic! But the real problem is why is there floating debris to start with, not what is it made of!
The "plastic never biodegrades" is questionable. It depends on the type of plastic, how long you consider "never" to be, and other factors (heat, sun, etc.). Again, this is making a claim against plastic, NOT specifically single-use plastic bags, most of which will break down and disintegrate. They are trying to draw a link between wafer thin plastic grocery bags, and big plastic milk containers, 2 liter plastic bottles, and things like plastic chairs or furniture.
 
 
There is no doubt that litter (which is irresponsible disposal of trash) can hurt some animals. This is why we believe the problem to be littering, and not responsible people using plastic grocery bags.
But this same trash can also help other animals. Did they find any animals making their homes in durable plastic containers? Or plastic containers catching rainwater that helps an animal get a drink? Or animals resting on the plastic containers floating at sea? Or getting out of the hot sun under a plastic container?