Upcoming workshops

One benefit of Alliance membership is training opportunities. I am beginning a road show of workshops around the state to educate members and other interested folks in the ins and outs of a plastics campaign.

This Wednesday, November 16, I will be at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School in Baltimore. The workshop begins at 2 pm and will focus primarily on legislative solutions to plastic litter, including case studies of the successful advocacy campaigns in Washington, DC, and Montgomery County. If you are interested in attending, please email me!

Other workshops are scheduled for December 1 in Cambridge and December 13 in Berlin. Check our calendar tab for more details.

In brighter news…

A roundup of recent success stories:

Brownsville, Texas, instituted a ban on plastic bags in January, and residents are seeing the results:

Brownsville resident Juan Peña says he has noticed that the city looks a lot cleaner.

Travel around any part of the city and you probably will not see plastic bags clinging to fences or discarded on the roadways.

Peña says West Brownsville especially looks cleaner than it did about 11 months ago. He says the decision by city officials to implement a plastic bag in January was a good thing.

As part of the transition, stores could continue to give out plastic bags if they added a $1 surcharge to the transaction as an environmental fee. The bulk of the fee goes to the city — about $250,000 was collected and used for litter pickup and as an incentive for bulk waste disposal.

Portland, Oregon’s plastic bag ban took effect on October 15. Mayor Sam Adams expects the transition to be smooth, but hopes curmudgeons will blame him, and not the cashiers:


And Chicago is now considering a plastic bag ordinance as well. Alderman Joe Moreno is proposing a ban in order to prevent a scenario he recently described:

“I am, right now, I’m at [a] school in my ward, I’m about to meet with the principal, I’m on the playground,” said Moreno. “And I can count eight bags just sitting here…it’s windy out today, bouncing off the fences in this little playground area….Someone’s got to clean those up, and it’s city taxpayers that pay for that.”

We reap what we sow

Shocking video of a canal in Naples after a storms:

Why do we do this to ourselves? Thanks to @FlotsamDiaries for the tip.

DC Bag Fee Creating Green Jobs in DC and Maryland

DC Greenworks is a Washington, DC, nonprofit social enterprise that consults, designs, and installs low-impact development projects to protect the environment. In that vein, the organization manages rain barrel installation for the District Department of the Environment’s RiverSmart Homes program.

A third of their funding for the rain barrel program comes from the Anacostia River Cleanup Fund, aka the bag fund. This additional funding has substantially increased what they are able to do.

In 2009, before the fee went into effect, DC Greenworks installed 400 rain barrels at homes around the District. This year, with the additional funding, they expect to install 1000 rain barrels!

This increase has led them to hire two part-time installers. Peter Ensign, the organization’s executive director, says that the rain barrel manufacturer, RiverSides, is ramping up production to meet the growing local demand. Though based in Toronto, the organization has added a manufacturing site at C.R. Daniels, a textiles, metal, and durable plastic factory in Ellicott City, Maryland. This move has piqued interest by Montgomery County, too, who is considering increasing the scope of its rain barrel program (Rainscapes) with this new local source.

Rain barrels improve water quality by capturing rain that falls on roofs and allowing residents to use the stored water during dry spells. This practice reduces the runoff that pollutes streams and rivers, while also reducing the amount of drinking water residents must pay for to water their landscapes.

In a press release, Marcus Ginder, Chair of RiverSides RainBarrel Group, says they expect the move will help them develop additional partnerships in the region. They also currently provide barrels to Greenbelt Cooperative Homes. “With this move to Maryland,” says Ginder, “RiverSides RainBarrels will have a greater capacity to serve Chesapeake Bay protection organizations and municipalities with effective solutions to the stormwater problems plaguing old sewer systems.”

Guest Post: Are you ready for the Trash Summit?

by Laura Chamberlin
Program Manager, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative
Alice Ferguson Foundation

We’ve worked together on cleanups. We’ve worked together to pass bag fees and get stronger regulation. We’ve worked together to improve composting in the region. Let’s continue our efforts to solve the litter problem in the Potomac watershed at the 6th Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit, on October 19 from 8:30am to 4:30pm at George Mason University’s Founder’s Hall in Arlington, VA.

With an array of roundtables, there is something for everyone. Topics include: policy issues, trash reduction technologies, odd items in our watershed, the regional litter prevention campaign, regulation, and containing waste. Nearly 300 stakeholders will participate including elected officials, community businesses and leaders, NGOs, teachers, government agency leaders, and trash experts to discuss how to create a lasting reduction of litter and waste in the area.

As a working summit, attendees not only have the opportunity to participate in the development of actions, but to commit to taking action for a cleaner and healthier Potomac Watershed. Expect to come away with inspiration and network of people working towards the same — ending litter.

This year’s summit will also engage and empower local students through the Summit’s Youth Track. Fifty high school students from the DC metro area will have the opportunity to attend a round table discussion proceeded by a briefing, create action items for their own schools, and present discussions to the larger group. Demonstrating the power of youth, the lunchtime keynote address will be delivered by a local middle school student who has been a strong advocate for a clean watershed since she began her campaign at the age of eight.

Will you join us? Will you make a commitment to taking REAL action to reducing litter in the Potomac and beyond? To learn more and register go to www.trashsummit.org.

Montgomery County begins bag fee outreach

Last week Montgomery County rolled out a website with information for residents and retailers about how to prepare for the 5-cent bag fee, which takes effect January 1. Under the slogan “Fight Litter, Bring Your Own Bag,” the website explains the fee and where it applies (every retailer, both paper and plastic bags received at checkout), the problems of litter, and where the proceeds of the fee go (supporting watershed restoration). It also gives citizens tools to get involved, with a list of sites in particular need of cleanup and a space to report litter problems. There is even a schedule of webinars for retailers, to educate them on all the requirements.

It’s great to see the outreach beginning already!

Pick Up America: ABC’s Person of the Week

Last winter Silver Spring’s Davey Rogner took a break from his trek across the country with Pick Up America to help us talk to lawmakers about plastic bags and the problems of litter. His energy definitely impressed a lot of people along the way.

He also impressed ABC News, which featured him and buddy Jeff Chen last week during their “Person of the Week” segment. Congratulations, guys! Very proud to have you on our team.

Guest Blog: Local waterway targeted for massive cleanup

By John Long, Founder/President, Clean Bread and Cheese Creek

Historic Bread and Cheese Creek in Dundalk, MD, will be the target of a major clean-up effort on Saturday, September 24, 2011 from 8am to 2pm, rain or shine. Led by local environmentalist John Long, the group plans to target the section of the stream between the Arc Baltimore at Dundalk’s building at 1401 North Point Road and the North Point Boulevard pumping station.

Volunteers of all ages and ability are appreciated and welcome to join in the effort. Brawn and muscle are needed to extract shopping carts and other heavy debris from the creek bed, while others are needed to pick lightweight fragments from the water and the undergrowth. It is suggested that folks interested in getting into the creek wear hip waders (some will be supplied) or old boots and long pants. Volunteers are needed to staff registration, haul trash bags to waiting dumpsters, provide supplies to those working in the creek bed, and sort recyclable materials at street level.

Gloves, trash bags, bottled water, and lunch will be provided. There is a limited supply of tools and hip waders to loan, so volunteers are asked to bring their own tools. We run our cleanups as family events; everyone helps one another, which fosters a sense of camaraderie and brings fun, friendship and enthusiasm. We are authorized to sign off on Service Learning hours for students and Community Service hours for the court system.

Please click here for photos of the current conditions in Bread and Cheese Creek of the area that will be cleaned on September 24, 2011. Click here for a map of the location.

For more information, contact John Long via email or at 410-285-1202.

Recycling plastic increases consumption

Plastic Fantastic Love,” an article by Surfrider Foundation Hawaii manager Stuart Coleman, appeared in the Honolulu Weekly today. It gives a thorough explanation of the problem of plastics, and the threats it poses to marine life, public health, and a sustainable planet.

It also includes this excellent quote from Oregon Surfrider activist (and my friend) Stiv Wilson:

“Though we believe that material recovery in the waste stream is important, plastic recycling is not the ultimate solution,” says Stiv Wilson, a journalist and ocean activist who worked with the Surfrider Foundation to help pass bag bans in the Pacific Northwest. “Industry, by their own admission, can’t make a bag out of a bag. It takes 70 percent virgin plastic to create a new bag, which means all we’re doing by plastic recycling is creating more, not less plastic in the world, while giving the average, good intentioned citizen the illusion of progress. This is precisely why industry pushes plastic recycling–it’s a guaranteed increase in consumption, but it ultimately does nothing to reduce the amount of plastic garbage entering the ocean.”

Emphasis mine.

Implementing a Bag Fee Program

Montgomery County’s 5-cent fee on plastic and paper shopping bags takes effect on January 1, 2012, but there is much advance work required to ensure success.

Through an outreach campaign called “Fight Litter, Bring Your Own Bag,” the county is already taking steps to educate residents and retailers of the law’s requirements, and to assist low-income and senior citizens by distributing free reusable bags. The county plans to distribute 75,000 free reusable bags before January, through county departments and agencies, as well as community partnerships serving lower-income households.

The county will be meeting with large retailers and industry representatives to educate businesses about the law, and will provide decals, signs, and posters for display in shop windows and at cash registers to help retail staff and the public. Unlike the similar existing bag program in Washington, DC, Montgomery County’s bag fee will be charged at all retailers. (DC’s fee only applies at stores that have a food license.)

Finally, the county is creating a database to track the law’s effectiveness, to demonstrate the change in the number of bags used and those found in the litter stream.

Revenues from the fee will support the Water Quality Improvement Fund, which supports stormwater projects and watershed protection.