Who's Emily Utter? She's an anti-plastics activist who helped pass a ban on plastic bags in San Francisco, and now she's working to help other cities and towns do the same. Utter is making "huge progress ... in spite of the plastic and chemical industries millions of dollars and best efforts," according to a Q&A interview with her that's making the rounds in environmental blogs. The original interview, in Linda Rubright's "The Delicious Day" blog, is headlined "The Woman the Plastic Industry Can't Beat." The interview has a David vs. Goliath tone, which is understandable given the subject matter. To help balance that, I'll mention here that the U.S. plastics industry traditionally doesn't rank all that high on lists of most influential trade groups. Also, let's assume that the plastics industry is correct -- how would you expect it to respond to numerous efforts across the country to ban or tax legal products? It's one thing to urge consumers to use less plastic, and quite another to make them illegal. Here are a few snippets from the interview: How would I go about getting a plastic bag ban in my town? If it is just an individual that wants to get involved I always recommend people look for other groups in their area that are either interested in doing it or are currently doing something about the plastic bag problem - a Sierra Club Chapter, a Surfrider chapter or an environmental club are good places to start. Once people do the research they often find there are already groups in their area working on the plastic bag issue. Then, once a group has formed they should check out the city council to determine the environmental leader within the council that would sponsor plastic bag ban or fee legislation and set up a meeting to see if the council person identified is interested in sponsoring legislation. Are there are general challenges that everyone is facing regardless of town size or structure in passing plastic bag legislation? The plastic industry. They are extremely well funded and they will send their representatives all over the country to fight the legislation. How are people overcoming the challenges the plastic industry is creating? Perseverance. We see the impact of plastic on our health and on our environment. There is a lot passion and understanding about this issue now. We see the plastic bags in our neighborhoods, in our parks and on our beaches. People know there are practical and easy ways to take care of this problem. We have seen this in Europe for years and now the US is finally starting to catch up. With all of the global examples, we are also seeing global momentum for this issue. It gives us the mental support to keep at it. It is not like we are proposing something totally out of the blue. Everything we are proposing is practical and it has a really obvious impact that we can see immediately. It seems like the plastic industry would be kind of scary, especially to little towns. I think for some of the smaller towns the plastics industry just kind of says, 'We are not going to bother.' They are focused on bigger targets and being strategic about it. Everyone looks to California for environmental legislation and the plastic industry is really trying to battle us here. Given the focus on suing California cities, some of the non-Californian cities have had an easier time because all of the plastic industry resources are going to California. I think if Denver brought the plastic bag issue up again you would see the plastic industry bringing in the big guns again. I know Chicago is starting to work on legislation and we will see the plastic industry come out in force. This is also why the plastic industry shows up to the smaller towns outside of Chicago because they see when a smaller town outside of a bigger city does it it spurs other cities around them to do it.
'The woman the plastic industry can't beat'
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