Colorado making plastic bags passe?
April 1, 2008
DURANGO, Colorado ” Will “paper or plastic?” soon follow “smoking or non-smoking?” onto the list of once-ubiquitous, now-obsolete questions?
Could be if others follow the lead of Durango Natural Foods, which earlier this month announced that, starting in May, it will phase out plastic bags and charge 20 cents for paper bags.
The move is part of the co-op’s “Plastic is so Passe” campaign to get customers to bring their own bags.
“For the environmentally conscious, deciding whether to use paper or plastic at a grocery store can make you feel like you’re caught between a paper mill and a petrochemical plant,” a news release from the co-op said.
Minna Jain, community outreach coordinator for the store, said pressure to reduce bag waste came from the co-op’s members.
“We just listened,” she said.
Nature’s Oasis Natural Foods Market also will be stepping up its efforts to wean customers from throwaway bags by giving those who bring their own tote 5 cents off their purchases in the next month or so.
“We’re attempting to change people’s habits as far as expecting a bag rather than bringing a bag,” General Manager Lou Steele said recently.
Jain said Durango Natural Foods has been giving shoppers who bring bags 5 cents credit for a couple of years but will phase that out when it gets rid of plastic bags.
Even with the credit, the co-op found it still was going through 4,000 to 5,000 plastic bags a month and slightly fewer paper bags.
This spring, that changes.
“It’s just encouraging to think about taking that many bags out of the waste stream,” she said.
With the program, the co-op will begin offering 99-cent reusable polypropylene bags. Or shoppers can pay a $2.22 deposit to borrow a cloth tote.
Nature’s Oasis began offering reusable bags in recent months and already has gone through two orders of 3,000.
“There’s a lot of interest in them, and I was really happy to see that,” Steele said.
Nature’s Oasis also has a wooden nickel program, in which customers who bring a bag are given a nickel that they place in a jar assigned to a local charity. Nature’s Oasis gives the charity 5 cents for each wooden nickel.
The store plans to stay with the carrot, rather than the stick, approach.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to charge for a bag. What we’re going to do is reward people for bringing their bags,” Steele said.
Although millions of barrels of oil and trees are used to make all the bags the U.S. uses, only a small fraction is recycled. This waste led San Francisco to ban plastic bags last year, and other cities have or are considering following suit.
Both Jain and Steele said a ban wouldn’t be a bad idea for Durango.
“When you throw something away,” Jain said, “there is no away.”
– Durango Natural Foods: http://www.durangonaturalfoods.coop/
– Nature’s Oasis Natural Foods Market: http://www.shopnaturesoasis.com/