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Abby vs. SB3442

2012 October 11

In my last blog, I told you about my project to have plastic bags banned in my community because of the impact it has on nature and our health.  It was all going smoothly until I found out that the Illinois legislature had passed a bill that stated we couldn’t do that.

SB3442, an Illinois Senate bill barring any community from banning plastic bags, passed on June 1, 2012.  It’s a set of rules with a feel good compromise of recycling plastic bags. I was crushed with the realization that politics and money fueled what wasn’t necessarily best for the environment. Illinois wanted to make the plastic bag makers happy, the retailers happy and its citizens happy, thinking that recycling would be the solution. Recycling plastic bags is not the solution; I think it’s just a band-aid to the problem.

I had to find some way to stop this bill! Illinois Governor Pat Quinn had to hear me and I had to convince him to veto the bill. I learned I would be up against politicians, the Illinois Retailer Association and plastic bag makers.  Being 12 years old, I wasn’t sure how to navigate through this system or if anyone would listen.

The idea of an on-line petition was suggested to bring attention to the matter.  I also made a video and wrote a letter to a well-known social action platform website. They were impressed with my passion and helped with getting the word out to their base. Initially, I got quite a few signatures. I was hoping for about 5,000. Then it really took off!  Social media was a blessing to get my message out and talk to supporters. I was able to use Twitter, message on Facebook and e-mail. I was not alone.  I heard from a retail employee who was disgusted by the amount of bags she gives out on a daily basis. She had also been writing letters to our politicians. Soon, I had my first interview and then it snow balled into more.  I’ve met some amazing people because of this petition, who also think this bill is a bad idea and have been trying just as hard to ban the bag. This includes the Mayor of Champaign, Illinois, Environment Illinois, Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the Chicago Recycling Association. If it weren’t for this petition, they and I would not have had our voices heard, or the public’s voice for that matter. Once people knew that this was about political lobbying, we got even more support. The Governor has yet to make a decision, but hearing from folks around the country and coming together as a team might sway his decision.  Nonetheless, I’m grateful for all the support and amazed by the impact of my project on the democratic process.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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