CALPIRG protests plastic bags with giant inflatable turtle

What’s enormous, green and ironically made of plastic?

Answer: the 30-ft. inflatable sea turtle that CALPIRG installed on the steps of Sproul Hall Wednesday to raise awareness of the environmental dangers associated with plastic bags.

CALPIRG held a press conference Wednesday morning to bring attention to their goal of banning plastic bags in the city of Berkeley, and eventually the whole state. The group attempted to collect signatures as members circled in outfits made entirely of plastic bags, carrying signs featuring very melancholy-looking characters from Disney’s “Finding Nemo.”

The signs read, “The average American uses 300-400 trash bags per year,” and “CALPIRG says ‘Ban the Bag.’”

UC Berkeley English professor and former poet laureate Robert Hass spoke at the conference, as well as Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Julia Ritchie, ocean associate at Environment California.

“It’s not a very complicated issue,” Hass said. “There were no plastic bags before 1950. We live in a throwaway culture and need to begin to be less heedless of how we treat the environment.”

CALPIRG has collected about 3,000 signatures on campus this semester to ban plastic bags, which they intend to present to the city council. The overall goal is 9,000 signatures — 25 percent of the UC Berkeley student population.

“Plastic bags kill,” Worthington said. “I am delighted to advocate that Berkeley be the first city in the world to ban plastic bags. However, we are way too late. Twenty countries and countless cities have already done this.”

CALPIRG has voted to make banning plastic bags their number one priority for the state. They have gotten plastic bags banned in 16 cities in California and hope to have similar success in 10 more cities, according to Megan Majd, CALPIRG oceans coordinator.

Plastic bags affect the health of humans, as well as sea-life, Ritchie said.

“They are threatening our health as well. As the bags break down they leak toxins, which are consumed by fish, who eventually end up on our dinner plate,” Ritchie said. “Our goal is a statewide ban, but it must start on a local level.”

Worthington cited “inertia” as the main reason why the city council has yet to take action against plastic bags.

“When the council members see the massive support that is being generated I think there is a good chance they will take action,” Worthington said.

Joey Freeman, ASUC external affairs vice president, cited the switch to Green Books from Blue Books and an initiative opposing plastic water bottles on campus as major steps forward for environmentalism at UC Berkeley.

CALPIRG is sponsoring a free reusable bag giveaway Thursday.

Members of CALPIRG, one of whom is covered in plastic bags, stand in front of a giant inflatable turtle on the steps of Sproul Hall.

Members of CALPIRG, one of whom is covered in plastic bags, stand in front of a giant inflatable turtle on the steps of Sproul Hall.