Using a 25-foot inflatable sea turtle and the Pacific Ocean as backdrops, several environmental groups in Avila Beach on Wednesday urged state lawmakers to pass two bills that would ban plastic products that often wind up in the ocean, harming sea life.
The state Legislature will adjourn Friday, and the two bills are stalled in committee, said Heide Cheuk with Environment California. One bill would ban plastic bags at grocery stores, and the other would phase out the use of polystyrene foam food containers.
More than 50 cities and counties — including San Luis Obispo County — have already banned plastic bags. However, lawsuits have been filed to overturn those bans.
“We’ve really reached the point where it makes much more sense just to ban them statewide,” said Erik Helgesen, also with Environment California.
Plastic products can be particularly damaging in the ocean because seabirds can accidentally ingest them or become entangled in them. Plastic items are also not biodegradable and float in the ocean indefinitely.
“Nothing that we use for a few minutes should pollute the ocean for hundreds of years,” Cheuk said.
The plastic bag ban, AB 298, is stalled in the state Senate while the polystyrene ban, SB 568, is stalled in the Assembly.
The groups urged Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, and state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, to support the bills so they can be sent on to the governor for his signature. Both lawmakers have not taken positions on the bills.
The groups used an inflatable turtle as their symbol because leatherback sea turtles eat jellyfish and easily mistake plastic bags for their food.
Other groups participating in Wednesday’s event were the Surfrider Foundation and San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper.