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Grayslake girl takes on plastics industry’s bag ban bill

Abby Goldberg 12 Grayslake campaigns for banning plastic bags. | Special for Sun-Times Media

Abby Goldberg, 12, of Grayslake campaigns for banning plastic bags. | Special for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 29, 2012 1:43AM

GRAYSLAKE — What started as a school project has exploded into one of the most popular petitions on an online platform for social change.

Abby Goldberg, 12, wants plastic bags banned from Grayslake. When she learned about pending state legislation that would prevent local communities from banning plastic bags, she decided to start a petition.

She will present her petition, which has more than 151,000 signatures, to Gov. Pat Quinn at his Chicago office on Tuesday.

She said she is nervous to deliver the petition, which she named “Governor Quinn: Don’t Let Big Plastic Bully Me!”

“I’m 12, so I’ve gotten that reaction: ‘She’s 12, what can she do?’ You can make a difference no matter how old you are,” Abby said.

The anti-plastic bag campaign is a school project. All Prairie Crossing Charter School students must complete a two-year community project in order to graduate. Students at the Grayslake school begin in seventh grade and must finish by eighth. The project must have an impact on the environment.

Abby said she noticed village employees putting up fencing to catch plastic bags that were blowing loose shortly after the school year started. Inspired by this observation and from an anti-plastic bag activist’s video, Abby decided to make banning plastic bags in her community her school project.

She spent two hours at her local Jewel and counted 175 bags used in one lane. Some bags had one item inside, Abby said.

“We can’t recycle plastic bags. You can’t make plastic bags from plastic bags,” Abby said.

She wants a village ordinance passed banning the use of plastic bags. However, Senate Bill 3442 will make it illegal for Illinois towns to create these bans.

The bill is on its way to Quinn’s desk for him to sign or veto.

“If this bill gets passed, I would be really disappointed because we’ve come so far. I’ve gotten so many people behind us,” Abby said.

She created the petition on and said she hoped for 100 signatures. She got more than 150,000 in about two weeks.

“It’s so amazing. I had no idea it would be that many,” Abby said. Deputy Campaign Director Michael Jones said her petition was one of the most popular on the group’s Web site.

About 10,000 petitions are started per month on a variety of issues across the planet. Most get a few signatures, Jones said.

“It’s rare to break into tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands ... Abby’s was one of the ones that caught people’s attention and really blew up,” Jones said.

Every time someone signs the petition, an email is sent to the petitioner’s target — in Abby’s case, to the governor.

“It’s actually sending a message to stakeholders saying, ‘Hey, someone is paying attention to the issue,’” Jones said.

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