Great Pacific Cleanup

The Pacific Ocean is a part of California’s culture, from the surfing in San Diego to the boardwalk in Santa Monica, to the cliffs in Santa Cruz. When people think about California, they see beaches, the ocean, sea lions, and waves. We need to do everything we can to protect it, and the easiest thing we can do is ban plastic bags. They clog our shores and swirl in our ocean, killing millions of sea turtles and marine life every year.

California uses 12 billion plastic bags per year. All of this plastic not only clogs up our landfills, it’s also hurting the ocean. Right now there is an island of trash twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific. This floating trash island is full of plastic bags and other artificial debris. It kills millions of birds and marine animals like sea turtles every year. If we don't start cleaning up our act here in California, it will only keep growing.

Too much of this trash heap comes from things we don’t need, like plastic grocery bags. Nothing we use for a few minutes should be polluting the ocean for hundreds of years!

To a sea turtle, a plastic bag floating in the ocean looks a lot like dinner, a jellyfish to be precise. That's why the plastic bags that find their way into the Pacific pose an often-fatal risk to wildlife. 

Of course, the companies that make and sell 11.9 billion bags are fighting to maintain the status quo, fronted by the lobbying team from the American Chemistry Council. But we need to do what is best for the Pacific Ocean and our future.

CALPIRG collected over fifty thousand public comments from students across the state and helped ban bags in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, Davis and Santa Barbara. Then CALPIRG built support for a ban on plastic bags in California and defended that ban by helping to pass Prop 67 in California in Fall 2016. 

Issue updates

Blog Post | Oceans

Plastic Bag Bans on the Rise | CALPIRG Students

The Oceans campaign has been at it again gathering petitions to ban plastic bags.  With a ban imminent for Davis, they have stepped up to the statewide level. Legislation to ban plastic bag statewide is expected be introduced this month. More than 4,400 people at UC Davis, mostly students, signed on to support a local ordinance prohibiting the distribution of single-use plastic bags at large retailers.  Under the proposed plan, paper bags would be given for a ten cent fee. CALPIRG is working to get support for a similar measure statewide.

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Resource | Oceans

Great Pacific Clean-up Project Packet


Download this resource for everything you need to know to organize the oceans campaign on your campus.

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Blog Post | Oceans

Great Pacific Cleanup Update | CALPIRG Students

Students across the state from San Diego to Davis have been working hard to address the problem of plastic pollution in the Pacific. A great pacific garbage patch twice the size of Texas is swirling around in our ocean, killing millions of birds and marine animals, such as sea turtles. An estimated 80% of this marine debris comes from land-based sources of trash, such as single-use plastic grocery bags. Californians use an average of 12 billion plastic grocery bags each year, enough to travel to the moon and back 9 times.

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Blog Post | Oceans

LA Bag Ban Moves Forward | CALPIRG Students

CALPIRG students have been working hard to build the grassroots support needed to ban plastic grocery bags in Los Angeles. With nearly 1,500 petitions gathered from UCLA students to support such a plan, CALPIRG will be working to gather another 1,500 petitions before the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee meeting coming up soon in January. Let's Ban the Bag!

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Blog Post | Oceans

Protecting the Pacific

For the fall quarter, our lead campaign has focused on protecting our oceans from toxic plastic pollution. For over 30 years now, we have been aware of giant gyres of swirling trash that clog up the ocean, such as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” right off our coast. The majority of this trash heap is coming from land-based sources of junk, like single-use plastic grocery bags. Californians use 12 billion plastic bags every single year, and less than 5% of those bags are ever recycled.

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