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Local cities push plastic bag ban


PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The state senate continues to mull over a statewide plastic bag ban.  It's estimated that Californians use about 12 billion plastic bags each year.  Meanwhile, some desert cities are looking to get ahead of the curve.

The city of Palm Springs started a campaign more than a year ago to fight the plastic waste.  In an empty lot in Palm Springs, there are several bags latched to bushes and shreds of others that blow in the wind. "It makes the place look dirty," said Hilary Walker.  "It makes me feel like people really don't care about their environment."

To fight those feelings, the environmental committee at the city of Palm Springs is working towards an ordinance banning plastic bags.  It follows the lead of many other cities in California that already have bans in place. The "Bring Your Own Bag" campaign encourages people to carry reusable bags when they shop.  "This really helps the environment and all the garbage we throw away everyday, tons and tons," said Ogmiama Masser, a Palm Desert resident. 

No movement comes without opposition.  A group called "Save the Plastic Bag" sent this statement:

The primary complaint made by environmentalists about plastic bags is that they impact the oceans. The complaints about ocean impacts are not valid. In any event, it would be IMPOSSIBLE for a plastic bag from Palm Springs to reach the ocean. It would be RIDICULOUS AND ABSURD for Palm Springs to ban plastic bags and require people to pay for paper bags just for the sake of misguided symbolism and because of pressure from extremist environmentalists who aren't interested in the facts.

"We haven't seen that much success from those counter-=suits and those law suits what we have seen is internationally, entire countries take on these kinds of policies," said Michele Mician, the sustainability manager at the city of Palm Springs.

Countries like Canada, where Blair and Hilary Walker spend six months every year.  "Great acceptance, and now you see 90% of shoppers bringing their own bags," said Walker. "Which is a good thing."

Now, Mician and others want the clean-up to reach across the valley.  Representatives from Palm Springs and Palm Desert took the campaign to the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, hoping for valley-wide change.
"It's better to have a consistent policy," said Mician.  "It'll help the consumer make good decisions and have the same polices across the board."

If passed, the stage legislation would phase out plastic bags in stores by 2015.  It would not preempt local ordinances already in place.

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