Heal the Bay lauded a series of recommendations issued by the state Ocean Protection Council to reduce the scourge of marine debris in California’s seas and beaches on November 20th.

“We expect this report to be a significant boost to the environmental community’s ongoing fight to rid our seas of unsightly and harmful trash,” said Dr. Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. “Our organization will continue to use our resources to help turn this plan into a reality that all Californians can be proud of.”

The report outlines an action plan for eliminating plastic bags, polystyrene food packaging, cigarette butts and other harmful detritus from entering the Pacific Ocean statewide.

The council, whose voting members include such state leaders as State Controller John Chiang and California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) chief Linda Adams, is specifically requesting state and local legislators to:

ï place consumer fees statewide on the use of single-use plastic and paper bags;

ï ban smoking on all state beaches and install cigarette butt receptacles at transition points to reduce the amount of cigarette litter;

ï prohibit the use of polystyrene take-out food packaging and expanded polystyrene (EPS); and

ï compel manufacturers to redesign single-use packaging to reduce their likelihood of becoming marine debris, e.g. leashed or tethered bottle caps, lids and straws.

The plan also seeks the reduction of toxic substances in plastic packaging, the assessment of consumer fees on commonly littered items, an increase in fines to deter would-be litterers, and the establishment of a broader base of regional partners in the Pacific region to reduce marine debris.

An estimated 3.5 million tons of plastic debris sit off the California coast, harming hundreds of animal species that can mistake plastic items as food, according to Heal the Bay.

Local municipalities spend tens of millions of dollars each year to collect and dispose of plastic debris that winds up in local watersheds, and the visual blight caused by tons of carelessly discarded plastic bottles and food packaging also hurts the state’s $43 billion beach tourism economy, says a Heal the Bay spokesman.

Under the umbrella of the Pacific Protection Initiative, Heal the Bay has worked successfully over the past two years with a number of municipal leaders and state legislators to enact legislation that significantly curbs the amount of manmade debris entering our taxed seas, the spokesman says.

Manufacturers of nurdles — the pre-production pellets that are the building blocks of most plastic products — are now required by law to eliminate harmful discharge of these materials, under a state law passed last year with Heal the Bay’s sponsorship.

Heal the Bay has consulted with municipalities such as Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach, and they have drafted or adopted strict ordinances that limit the use of disposable plastic bags.

For background on the report, go to www.resources.ca.gov .copc/.