Athletes pack pro-plastic political message

November 9, 2011

Bob Gutierrez


High school football players delivered a political message along with barbecue chicken dinners last weekend at an Atascadero fundraiser, surprising some parents, risking their boosters’ non-profit status, and igniting a brisk debate about plastic bags and exploitation of students.

Student athletes from Paso Robles and Atascadero were servers at Saturday’s annual fund-raising event at Food4Less, and the meal boxes they carried to tables also contained a one-page flyer imprinted with the message: “Stop the SLO County bag tax and ban.” The football teams’ booster organizations, which are non-profit entities, orchestrated the event.

A controversial countywide ban on plastic and paper grocery bags will be considered today by the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) in a 1:30 p.m. session at the County Government Center. (Editor’s note: Check this site for an update following the meeting.)

“Under non-profit law, a non-profit must promise not to be involved in political advocacy to maintain its status,” said San Luis Obispo attorney Stew Jenkins.

The American Chemistry Council and a local offshoot group provided the meal flyer, “Keep Bags Free SLO.”

Allyson Wilson, public relations manager of American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division in Washington, described the flyer as “simple, just a single-sided flyer,” and then said, “As I understand it, we got a call, they said they could use 3,000 copies of the flyer and they could get those out to a big audience.”

Asked who “they” were, Wilson referred a reporter to Bob Gutierrez, a spokesman for Food4Less. Gutierrez skirted the question of the flyers’ source, but said his company “is going to be affected by this issue and this information was provided for consumers in the region.”

Sam De Rose, athletic director at Atascadero High School, said he was unaware of any political issue, and also referred a reporter to Gutierrez.

The San Luis Obispo County measure under consideration would allow retailers to distribute thicker bags costing a nickel, with the idea that the bags would be reused. Along with the chemistry group, the measure is opposed by their local action affiliate, Keep Bags Free SLO.

The flyer asked recipients to attend the IWMA meeting today and speak in opposition to the ban.  The authority’s board of directors is made up of all five county supervisors, a representative from each of the county’s seven cities, and a Cambria Community Services District official.

Ironically, the California Grocers Association — to which Food4Less belongs — notified its board members Tuesday that it supports the bag ban proposal with some minor changes.

“The draft ordinance… is one the grocery industry believes will achieve its environmental goals, while providing consumers no-cost and low-cost carry out bag options and not placing unnecessary burdens on retailers,” wrote Timothy James, manager of governmental relations for the grocers’ group.

Bill Worrell, the waste management authority’s manager, said stores will be able to recover costs by charging a small amount per bag.

“We can’t tax the bags,” said Worrell, referring to a recently passed piece of legislation, “so we have no choice but to seek an outright ban.”

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What about the produce and meat bags? I always get paper and use ’em for waste basket liners but use and recycle lots of produce bags. And how is it that a Food 4 Less bag ALWAYS ends up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Sure, it’s nice to recycle but those who don’t send theirs to the landfill. Imposing a plastic bag ban is real bad P.R. for little benefit. Can’t we just sit back and celebrate the fact that even gasoline powered cars produce minimal emissions, there are no smog alerts, and no rivers are on fire?

I wouldn’t mind paying for bags if the price was based on its wholesale cost plus 5 or 10%. But a higher price, like the 25 cent penalty which I understand San Francisco is using, is just another way to ripoff consumers.

How irresponsible of you to implicate Atascadero High School athletes in political shenanigans! Those kids were doing nothing more than spending a Saturday to raise funds for their program, just as other groups do through bake sales, car washes, etc. If there is any wrongdoing here, please direct the blame at Food4Less or whoever furnished the bags. I happen to favor of the ban on the plastic bags, but nevermind. What you’ve posted here, well, it’s as exploitive of 40 young men as anything the store might have done.

From time-to-time, the Boot Barn and many stores in the county allow groups to use their parking lots and water for fundraising car washes. While these stores are being good corporate citizens, they are also subtly drawing customers to their products and services. Are they evil for doing exploiting kids? No doubt some will think so, but I do not see anything wrong with F4L doing the same. They didn’t require them to wear T-shirts and walk around town. And frankly who in their right mind would think that the slogan was directed from AHS and not F4L?

Sorry, but this does not risk their non-profit status.


Under federal law, 501(c)3 organizations are allowed to “lobby” (which means influencing an issue indirectly or directly) as long as it is a very limited part of their budget (courts have held less than 5% of their budget is allowed). Carrying a flier with a message is insignificant.

Additionally, if Food4Less provided the meals or hosted the event, it wasn’t the Booster’s message to begin with.

In my 19 years with kids at schools not once did either of those groups lobby at their schools in any form.

Oh , GIVE IT UP, Kevin !

You don’t impress anyone with your specious blather. They all laugh at you, deservedly so.

Who are “they”?

I have yet to laugh at Kevin nor do I find his postings “specious blather”.

In truth, he impresses me a great deal and I, for one, appreciate his information.

Thanks again, Kevin.

Not only are you correct SLOR, but this is not a political issue; it is a policy issue. No one was advocating for a candidate or party. Unless the issue came up as a referendum, everyone is exercising their 1st Ammendment right. Right?

The ban will cost me at least $2.50 in reusable bags and violates my right to get what I want, when I want it and to never be inconvenienced. Sod the environment.

These kids were pawns in a game of corporate greed. If the boosters retain their non-profit tax status, I want to see an anti-Wal Mart flyer next year. How’d you think that would go over?

Oh, and seriously, could the Atascadero High administration be any thicker? If it’s not trying to hold study hall at Atascadero Bible Church, it’s the principal stealing from the San Ardo School District and now the boosters letting the athletes be taken advantage of. Wake up school board!

Seems to me if anyone should be criticized here it would be the management of Food 4 Less; not only did they try to turn a non-profit fundraiser into a political event, they used student / athletes / volunteers as pawns in delivering their political message. Shame on them; Food 4 Less seems more interested in pushing their agenda then showing any community spirit or support.

As for the plastic bag ban; perhaps a variance could be written in to allow for use of non-petroleum based bags could be considered. Vegetable based plastics are being developed, and they show promise of being degradable as well; if this technology can be made into a profitable model, allowing for their use would seem to solve a lot of issues normally associated with regular plastic bags.

There are already biodegradble plastic type of bags that some stores are using.

Okay, so, don’t you think you are kind of making my point? Which stores are using these newer bags, what is the decay rate of those bags, and shouldn’t those particular bags (if they degrade fairly quickly) be exempt from a bag ban based on non-degradable bags?

I agree with you, I was simply adding that there are already biodegradable plastic type of bags that could be used for those stubborn people like SewerHights that feel to privileged to help the environment and don’t want to be ‘put out’. These bags are made from corn. They look like regular plastic with a slight different texture. I can’t remember which stores but I’ve gotten them from a store in SLO, one of the gift shops. They use them in a chain of markets known as ‘Bimbo’s’ and they use them at Hole In The Sky in Grover (don’t ask how I know). If you Google ‘biodegradable bags’ then you’ll see wholesale places that sell them online. Sun Chips uses bio bags for some of their chips.

From what I’ve read bio bags start degrading in about 3 months which is one of the issues with them. They have to be stored correctly and they have to be used promptly but it can be done without much trouble IMO.

There are also degradable bags that aren’t to be confused with the corn bags. These degradable bags are still made with petroleum but they degrade quickly into little pieces that are so small that you can’t see them but they still leave junk in the environment, you just can’t see it.

You’re a little behind the times on the Sun Chips bags. I rememeber this in the press last year.

Here people aren’t only unhappy about being inconvenienced by lag of bags, they don’t like the noice.

Um no, I posted in this forum a couple of months ago how stupid it was that people thought the bags were too noisy. I tried twice to copy a link that shows that they now have a new bag that they are trying and it’s less noisy but for some reason my old laptop didn’t want too CCP this morning. So no, I’m not the one behind the times.

O.k. so now I’m up to speed. I see that they are doing a WHOPPING one bag. They had five last time. Not as big a deal as you made sound when you said some. One hardly makes some.

What ever you say, yeah they made one bag of chips. There, are you happy? Silly me, I thought that they made more than one bag of chips, I wonder who the lucky guy was that got that one bag.

Really BTDT, you will do anything to try and prove me wrong when in reality you are nothing more than a,,,never mind, I don’t want to get my post taken off.

Not sure what you mean about the one guy and his chips??? My point was they make numerous flavors and only one flavor is using new bag.

No not trying to prove you wrong. When someone makes a statement, they should try and make sure it is as accurate as possible. That way someone doesn’t read and pass it along to others as gospel truth.

Last I do agree with you sometimes. I actually gave a couple comments of yours a like this week. When you post on a place like this people are going to disagree. Does that mean we still can’t debate our differences?

Once again, the plastic bag misinformation machine is in full force. The words “plastic bag ban” are being thrown around to imply that plastic bags will be completely unavailable to the consumer. However, the only thing that is being “banned” is the free giveaway of the bags at the store. Consumers can still purchase all the plastic and paper bags they want – the ordinance even states that consumers can purchase thicker bags for a nickle.

The annual cost of giving out free paper bags to customers who don’t bring their own bags is estimated at $4 billion in the US alone. This essentially amounts to “bag welfare” where customers who bring their own bags are “taxed” in the form of higher prices to subsidize free bags for those who can’t be bothered to bring their own. Charging for plastic bags eliminates this bag welfare by shifting the bag costs to those who are actually consuming these bags.

Food4Less strives to follow a low cost model by making consumers bag their own groceries and urging them not to double bag them to keep costs down. So it is surprising that they would not embrace this ordinance as another cost saving measure, since instead of worrying about the increased costs caused by some consumers double bagging, they won’t have to worry about the costs of provide free bags at all.

I hate to quote the Trib, but their 4pm article today states “If approved in January, single-use plastic bags such as those found at most grocery stores WILL BE PROHIBITED at stores countywide, and retailers would be required to start charging at least 10 cents for PAPER bags.”

Sounds like plastic grocery bags (not the flimsy produce/meat bags) WILL be banned plus we’ll have to pay 10 cents each if we want paper ones… Isloslo, if this is incorrect, please clarify.

The actual text of the ordinance says that supermarkets, pharmacies, and stores greater than 10,000 sq ft are prohibited from providing single-use carryout bags to customers at the point of sale.

So you can still purchase plastic bags for any use. The stores just can’t give you one at the point of sale to bag your items.

Good for these kids. May their point of view prevail.

“May their point of view prevail.” That is quite a leap of logic; how do you know that is how the students themselves actually feel? Have you spoken to any of them personally, did that or those young people represent themselves as spokesperson for all of the young people in attendance? It seems that you have “assumed” that since the student / athletes passed out the meals and the flyers were inside the containers that the meals were in, you think that represents how they feel? Quite a stretch IMO. You may want to sharpen your ability to perceive what an actual message really is.

I’ll bet those kids had no idea what they doing. I can’t imagine too many high school football players giving a damn about grocery bags. They were used for political reasons and that’s pathetic.

Again, I agree with you!