Plastic Pasadena Must Go

5 mins read
A man wearing a suit and tie

California leads the pack in terms of reducing plastic pollution. Isn’t it time that Plastic Pasadena pulled its head out of its Easter basket and aligned it with what the people want and what the planet needs?

This Saturday, at the annual Egg Bowl and Bunny Brunch, kids were scheduled to scramble all over the Rose Bowl to load-up on plastic Easter eggs stuffed with toys. The event has been cancelled due to the weekend weather forecast, with a “mini egg hunt on the field” now scheduled for late afternoon on Tuesday, April 2nd.

The eggs are free to the hunter-gatherer kids. No admission will be charged. Of course, the eggs were not “free” in the sense that Pasadenans paid for the 70,000 eggs through the City’s General Fund.

Plastic eggs. Non-recyclable plastic eggs.

We reached out to the City of Pasadena Mayor’s Office and the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department regarding Project ID 2024-Informal-0095 to inquire how much those non-recyclable eggs cost taxpayers. We asked whether sustainable fabrication alternatives—paper-mâché, cardboard, lightweight recycled products, or any other alternative like compostable materials—had been explored.

As a touchpoint: according to the Office of the Governor Gavin Newsom, “Less than 9 percent of plastic is being recycled in California and the rest of the U.S.” The United Nations estimates that plastic often lasts for 500 years, typically wearing down to fine microplastics that kill wildlife galore and fill the bellies of millions of living creatures on Earth, including the bellies of you and your grandchildren.

In February, Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D–Burbank) introduced SB 1147, a measure that will require the study of the health impacts of microplastics in drinking water.

“SB 1147 is an important public health measure that will increase the safety of drinking water,” stated Senator Portantino. “Microplastics have been identified in rain, drinking water, soil, and air. That’s why more research and action is necessary to understand how to deal with their impact on our health.”

“Research is increasingly showing that the rapid growth of microplastics presents an existential threat to human health and the environment,” Nick Lapis, Director of Advocacy for Californians Against Waste. “This measure builds on the pioneering work of Senator Portantino’s SB 1422 and SB 1263 to go beyond testing and planning to actually adopt protective standards for the water we drink, and it can’t come fast enough.”

But back to the Pasadena plastic eggs.

The City’s Public Information Officer, Lisa Derderian, stated that the 70,000 plastic eggs cost taxpayers $9,163.71. These funds were taken from the City’s special events budget. Derderian further stated, “The City has considered eco-friendly alternatives,” specifically, “Eco Eggs; for 70,000 eggs, the cost would have been about $67,000,” a price that was determined to be “cost prohibitive.”

So we contacted Karen Edwards, who is in charge of public relations and sustainability for the eco eggs® brand in Plymouth, MN. She stated, “At $200 per 500 eggs wholesale, 70,000 large eco eggs would cost $28,000, including free shipping.”

Edwards further noted: “Our eco eggs are larger than standard plastic Easter eggs, measuring 3 inches tall by 2.25 inches in diameter. The cost noted by the City for an eco-alternative does not reflect wholesale pricing for our brand.”

She points out that pricing on the company’s public-facing Web site does not apply to wholesale or large quantity orders. Edwards commented that she would have remembered a query concerning such a large order, adding “I have not spoken to the City of Pasadena this year but would love to talk with them for next year.”

After once again contacting the City’s PIO, Lisa Derderian stated that, “A Parks & Rec employee had visited their website and calculated the costs…she did not ask for an official bid… Even at $28,000, this approach would be cost prohibitive.”

Here’s what COULD have happened.

Instead of Pasadena indirectly adding more plastic into the Scholl Canyon Landfill and in an effort to keep spending under control, the City could have purchased fewer than 70,000 eggs for the kids.

Way fewer.

And it could have seriously considered products like eco eggs, which are made from 100 percent recycled content, or USA-made Easter eggs designed to be compostable, or eggs made out of paper products.

“We have to act now, with urgency, to give our kids a future without plastic pollution.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom

Anyone who has ever done business with a city, county, state or federal office will attest that the RFP process is exacting, as it should be. Typically, at least three competing bids are required for any purchase.

For a city department to skim a consumer Web site and determine a comparable but sustainable product price based on what is posted as a retail price is breathtakingly inept.

Earlier this month, the State of California, Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) released an update on SB 54, the “Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act,” and invites public comment now through April 23, 2024. The formal rule-making process is now in motion.

A March 8, 2024 press release from the Office of Governor Newsom includes this statement: “For too long, plastic polluters have passed the buck on the growing burden of plastic waste contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat,” said Governor Newsom. “California is leading the way to hold producers responsible, drive sustainable innovation and green jobs, and support the most impacted communities. We have to act now, with urgency, to give our kids a future without plastic pollution.”

This Bill addresses single-use packaging and plastic food service ware. Granted, styro take-out trays are not Easter eggs, but the Bill is relevant in that it reveals our state’s stance on the future of plastic use in California.

Let’s be clear. The fight to contain and reduce the manufacture and use of plastics is not a fight about Easter eggs. It is a fight for our planet.

The Joads had the right idea. The mere mention of our state’s name has long been synonymous with abundance, non-conformity, opportunity, invention, innovation and activism regarding human rights, civil justice, animal rights, and the mission to save our planet. For these reasons, we may be regarded by red states and others as, you know, tree-huggers, snowflakes, bleeding hearts, you name it.

So be it. Bring it on.

Let’s be clear. The fight to contain and reduce the manufacture and use of plastics is not a fight about Easter eggs. It is a fight for our planet. Pasadena is obligated to represent Pasadenans as an informed and engaged constituency.

And we need departments at the City and elsewhere to not only do their due diligence—such as inquiring about alternatives when the status quo is challenged – and also to demonstrate a genuine passion to serve our best long-term interests as a community.

To support this effort, we encourage readers who know of manufacturers like the makers of eco eggs to advise them to connect with the City now, in order to learn when bidding opens on upcoming projects at https://procurement.opengov.com/portal/pasadena/.

And as a citizen, if you’d like to see plastic Easter eggs replaced next year by sustainable alternatives, then take a cue from our Governor Newsom and act with urgency.

Let our City and our Mayor know that this is what you want. Bring an end to Plastic Pasadena by contacting the Mayor’s office now: [email protected].

The short URL of this article is: https://localnewspasadena.com/x3cx

Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

2 Comments

  1. Hi, Steve,
    Thank you for making my point with such stunning clarity. The basis of my objection is exactly as you state: plastic Easter eggs, and plastic in general, lasts forever. Yours will be on the planet in some form, possibly our descendants’ drinking water, most likely in a landfill, for five centuries. IF the Egg Bowl participants returned their plastic eggs to the City, and IF the City sanitized and re-used the same plastic eggs year after year, the impact would be different. But it’s far easier and cheaper in the short term to just buy more plastic.

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