Pasadena did not need to do this. While Gov. Newsom did temporarily suspend the state’s plastic bag ban, Pasadena was grandfathered in and left to make its own choice on whether or not to follow suit. For once, Pasadena could have been a climate leader in an ever so small, but ever so important way. Again, they failed us.
Let me be clear, there is no doubt that the safety of frontline workers, protection of vulnerable community members, and efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19 are the first priority and I fully support policies that actually protect public health. However, this suspension lacks any evidentiary basis for rolling back a sound policy that mitigates both the climate and plastic pollution crises. Reusable bags, especially when washed, do not increase the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. When asked for her opinion by Councilman Madison, Dr. Goh, Pasadena’s Director of Public Health and Health Officer, said she was “agnostic” on the issue and does not think inanimate objects pose a significant risk in transmitting the virus. They’re not even listening to their own scientists.
Just like when we asked them to commit to not accepting fossil fuel money, supporting a local Green New Deal, or declaring a climate emergency, City Council has chosen to ignore the science and not be brave on climate action by rescinding the bag ban “until further notice.” Once again, they have taken the easy way out, pushing the climate crisis even more into the hands of my generation. To be clear, there were other options that would have taken just the slightest amount of work to implement: increasing communication with the public to wash their reusable bags often, or even temporarily suspending the surcharge on paper bags (which, as Mayor Tornek pointed out in the meeting, some stores are already doing illegally).
We need City Council to immediately reinstate Pasadena’s bag ban and disseminate fact-based information and guidance instead of suspending waste reduction and pollution prevention policies. The bag ban suspension is a shortsighted response that encourages disposables, and perpetuates a throwaway culture that takes us further away from being a healthy and sustainable community.
Hub Coordinator, Sunrise Sequoyah