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Local store attempts to limit bag waste

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 2, 2009 7:30 AM

On Earth Day, the New Pioneer Co-op will become a deeper shade of green.

Customers who wish to carry their purchases out of the store in paper or plastic bags will be charged 5 cents per bag. Proceeds from the bag fee will be donated to the Iowa City Crisis Center. According to the Press-Citizen, co-op marketing manager Jennifer Angerer says customers have been requesting a change in the bag policy since the Whole Foods Market banned plastic bags and since Iowa City city councilors have been discussing a similar ban.

Marcia Soldat, 65, who has been shopping at the co-op for nearly four years, doesn’t mind the store’s new bag policy.

“It will remind me to bring my own reusable bags,” she said.

Judy McRoberts, 57, thinks that charging customers for paper and plastic bags is a wonderful idea. She has been carrying her own reusable bags for several years now. She only hopes that the policy will be able to accommodate low-income shoppers.

Jeff Maske, 48, says he tries to be green, but it doesn’t always work so well. He’s not too upset by the new policy.

“If I have to pay a little more for my bags, it’s not the end of the world,” he said.

Plastic bags are a nuisance. On windy days, they somersault through the streets and get caught behind fence posts. They flutter nosily from tree branches and gather at the bottom of storm sewers.

But shopping bags have become more than a nuisance — they are hazardous to our environment and the creatures that inhabit it. Because plastic is not biodegradable, shopping bags don’t just disappear after they’ve been tossed in the trash. According to an article in Slate, scientists are unsure how long it takes a plastic bag to break down. Because plastic bags have only been around for 50 years or so, it’s too soon to tell. However, some scientists have estimated that it may take anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years.

Salon reports that every year, Americans throw away 100 billion bags. This is equally harmful to the environment as dumping 12 million barrels of oil. The Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation reports that more than 1 million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die every year from eating or getting caught in plastic. Even paper bags are damaging to the environment. To produce the ten billion paper bags Americans use every year, 14 million trees must be cut down.
These numbers are sobering. We consume billions of bags, only to use them for a short time, then toss them in the trash. But shopping with reusable bags can easily prevent this wastefulness. Reusable bags are relatively inexpensive, and they are available at a variety of grocery and retail stores.

More stores in the area should follow the co-op’s lead. Fewer paper and plastic bags will make for a cleaner city and a healthier environment. We praise New Pioneer for its environmental ingenuity and for moving one step closer to becoming fully green.


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