The Bag Monster is a shameless ham. Speaking with an affected Cookie Monster rasp and standing in the midst of an installation of about 45,000 disposable plastic bags--the amount of bags one person will typically use in a lifetime--in Skyline Park, he's not shy about confronting passers-by with his cause. "You want to put on a bag costume?" he asks a guy in line for hot dogs at Biker Jim's.
"Uh, I'm good," the guy says.
The Bag Monster persists: "You could be like me and last 1,000 years."
The guy is obviously uncomfortable. "I recycle," he offers.
But the bag monster is undaunted, and in the half hour or so I hang around, he does in fact get at least a couple of people to put on the bag costume--which is pretty impressive, since the sun is out, it's hot and the bag costume looks really gross.
For five years, Andy Keller has been tirelessly hawking his cause: to rid the world of single-use plastic bags.
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He got the idea when he was looking out over the landfill of his hometown of Chico, CA. "What I really noticed was all the bags," he says. "They were blowing all over the place, you know, birds were pecking them, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Or," he corrects, "a ton of trash.
"45,000 is actually a low estimate of how many of these things people use in a lifetime," he says. "Like, you have a family of three? Multiply that by three. So I'm just showing that, you know, most people put their trash out on the curb and it just goes away. Except it doesn't go away. Plastic bags last for 1,000 years--that's 30 generations. And for what? Just to take your Taco Bell burrito outside and then throw it away?"
It's obvious the guy is passionate about his cause, and even more so when you find out he's self-funded. What's he do? Why, he heads a reusable bag company, of course. Nevertheless, his motives seem pure (he hastens to add that he's not promoting his own company on this tour), and his schtick seems to be working; many municipalities in California have in fact banned the bags, and a statewide ban is currently being considered. Having gotten "kicked out" of that state, as he jokes (they're banning the bag monster--get it?), Keller is taking it the cause to the rest of the country.
And he's issuing each city he stops in a challenge (which you can respond to on his Facebook page): "Should the Bag Monster stay, or should the Bag Monster go?" he asks. "Because if I stay, I'll be around for 1,000 years."