postheadericon Plastic Initiative



In 2014 Napa Valley CanDo spearheaded the reduction of single use plastic bags in Napa County.

Recognizing the huge numbers of plastic bags littering the Napa Valley landscape, bags that were beingused only once and ending up in the river where wildlife was harmed, CanDo embarked on aneducational program to help neighbors understand the ramifications of this destructive habit.

We set-up tables outside most grocery stores with information about the problem. We provided freereusable bags. We sponsored the documentary film Bag It for 400 viewers. However, a survey showedthat although shoppers were informed, they continued to accept single use plastic bags if offered.

In order to ease the path from intent to action, we researched other Bay Area jurisdictions’ ordinances,prepared a draft ordinance template that we thought would work in Napa County and presented this tocity officials.

Students helped gather signatures on petitions. When the matter came before the Napa City Council,the chamber was full of supporters. The measure passed unanimously. CanDo volunteers went to eachof the other 5 local jurisdictions in Napa County presenting the evidence that a ban was necessary.Thereafter, the rest of the County passed a similar ordinance.

Since the ordinances have been adopted Napa County is noticeably cleaner, the river has less pollution,the recycling centers have fewer jams and residents feel good about what they are doing. The wholeeffort from concept to final approval took about 4 years.


postheadericon Common Beliefs About Plastic Bags


-  I need plastic bags for pet waste. Only plastic carryout bags are banned, not produce bags, not bread bags, not newspaper bags, not take out food bags. These other bags can be used for pet waste or pet waste bags can be purchased just like trash bags. Many public parks have dispensers.


-  I need plastic bags to line my trash cans. Kitchen and bath trash cans might need a liner although plastic carryout bags are smaller than most kitchen waste baskets. Other rooms in the house may not. If you are old enough to remember before plastic bags were introduced in the 1970s, we lined trash cans with newspaper, or just washed them out if they got messy.


-  Reusable bags are unsanitary. Individuals can choose to clean their bags or not. A 2010 study shows that reusable bags have no more bacteria than other items you bring home from the store. Many reusable bags are machine washable. People who have been using the same reusable bags for 30+ years and don't wash them report no problems.


-  Enough people are already reusing and repurposing plastic bags. Studies have shown that most plastic bags that get reused are reused only once and then end up in the landfill or polluting the environment.


-  A lot of plastic bags are being recycled. State figures show that less than 5% of the bags we use get put into the store recycle bins and actually made into something else.


-  Compostable bags would solve the problem. Compostable bags (such as those made from cornstarch) only break down in an active composting process. They do not break down in the natural environment because of the lack of heat and do not compost in the landfill because there is no oxygen. 


-  A ban on plastic bags just forces people to buy trash bags. A study in L.A. County showed that the average family spends just $5.72 per year to purchase plastic bags. Some of us use no plastic carryout bags and spend nothing for trash bags. It is not a burden with just small changes in habits.


-  A plastic bag ban is bad for the economy. California has a large number of reusable bag companies so jobs will increase in this sector according to the Brookings Institution. Many companies that make plastic carry out bags also make reusable bags.


-  Why should I give up my freedom to choose what type of bags I want to use?  The resources used for plastic bag manufacturing and the litter and the resulting environmental pollution effects everyone and costs us all to clean up.


An estimated 51 million plastic bags are discarded each year in Napa County. This does not count the less than 5% of bags that are put in the store recycle bins and actually made into something else.


postheadericon Information About Plastics


Did you know that little Napa County throws away 51 million plastic bags every year?  It’s true.  This and other shocking information caused CanDo's Plastics group to initiate the BETTER BAG PROJECT.  In the course of our research, we learned about all the harm caused by plastic bags and other throw-away plastics and then we moved on to positive measures each of us can take.  Here are our most important recommendations. 


Be sure you're using reusable bags instead of plastic for shopping.

~  Grocery bags - Get enough bags together to do your weekly shopping. Make sure they're sturdy so they don't end up in the landfill. Put them all in one bag in your car.

~  Produce bags - Go to the next step. Washable mesh bags for produce are great. Get them at a CanDo table, Whole Foods and Vallergas have them for sale too. Keep one grocery bag in your kitchen and put the produce bags into it as you empty or wash them. If you need occasional plastic, consider using re-purposed bread bags. Grab this grocery bag when you head out the door to the market.

 Fold-up bags - For the drug or office supply store, keep a fold-up bag in your purse, pocket or glove box. 

~  For guys - Real men carry re-usable bags. Take a fold-up bag into the market or home improvement store.

~  Recycling plastic bags - If you have extra plastic bags, take them to the grocery store to be recycled. These are taken to plants where they are actually made into usable products. DO NOT PUT THEM IN YOUR RECYCLE BINS - they jam the machinery.


Article about Plastic Bags in the NV Life Magazine (December/January 2013)


Copy of Insert in October, 2012 Waste Management bill