It's one of his biggest pet peeves, when he is cycling around the Studio City hills and sees a plastic bag blowing in the wind or floating down the Los Angeles River. It's such a shame for actor and activist .
"People just don't realize how bad they are for the environment all around," said Begley, who lives in Studio City. "It's just so horrible. But I think if people knew how bad it was, the plastic bag bans could sweep the country. Communities are realizing how hazardous they are."
He laments that people don't get how these things don't become part of the environment very easily, they don't biodegrade, they kill dolphins and more. It's an easy problem to solve.
"If someone asks me, paper or plastic in the grocery store, I say 'neither,' " Begley said. "And I've been saying that since the late 1970s."
Begley is active in part of the Save The Bay campaign in the San Francisco Bay area which is a group that is standing up to the plastics industry and reducing plastic bag pollution to protect our waters and marine animals. He points out that the bags can choke animals, and could be toxic.
"Animals get all tangled up in these bags, it's just terrible," Begley said.
And the stats are staggering:
- Save The Bay estimates that more than one million plastic bags enter the Bay each year.
- Up to 90 percent of floating debris is plastic, which never biodegrades.
- Plastic trash has entangled, suffocated, or poisoned at least 267 known animal species worldwide.
- Average use time of a plastic bag is 12 minutes.
- Despite a 15-year effort to recycle plastic bags, less than five percent of all single-use plastic bags in California are actually recycled.
- Californians use approximately 19 billion plastic bags annually.
- 1.37 million plastic bags were removed from coastal areas worldwide on just one day.
"I'm happy to see communities are realizing the importance about banning plastic bags," Begley said.
The California State Senate rejected a plan to ban bags statewide, after it passed the state Assembly last year. The law would have eliminated single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies starting in 2012, and in liquor stores and convenience stores in 2013.
In November, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved one of the strictest environmental anti-plastic bag measures in the country, but it only affects the unincorporated parts of the county. However, it was strongly supported by supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the Studio City area and said, "I think our action will have a domino effect with a number of other cities and counties around the state—including the city of Los Angeles, and the city of Pasadena, and the city of Santa Monica among others."
The ban would keep any store from providing any customer a plastic carryout bag except for plastic bags that are used to hold fruit, vegetables or raw meat in order to prevent contamination with other grocery items. Grocers can offer paper bags for 10 cents each.
"With each person using an average of 600 plastic bags a year, it is staggering how much we can help the environment by cutting back on all of it," Begley said. "What if all plastic bags you and your family used in a year were still in your car?" (See the video.)