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Plastic grocery bags ditched in Eagle Co.

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/ Vail DailyEdwards resident Ashley Newman carries groceries in a cloth bag Wednesday after shopping at City Market in Vail.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” With a $10 investment, Ashley Newman forever said good-bye to the plastic grocery bag.

About a year ago she bought a set of durable, reusable cloth bags, and she takes them to City Market every time she goes shopping.

Where it used to take five to 10 plastic bags to haul a week’s worth of groceries to her home in Edwards, she can now fit everything in one or two of her own bags, which she imagines will last for years and years.

And that, just the mere thought of keeping those ratty mass-produced bags out of her house is enough reason to stick with her cloth bags, she said. Then Newman thinks of the environment.

“The plastic bag’s whole purpose in life is to be used for approximately 10 minutes and thrown away,” Newman said. “We’re creating millions and millions of bags, and most of them go to waste.”

Cloth bag shopping is by no means widespread in the United States, but in places like Vail, it may be breaking free of its reputation as green-minded fad.

The purpose of buying reusable grocery bags is simple ” to get rid of the plastic ones. The United States uses millions of plastic bags every year, and when they end up in the trash and eventually landfills, as most of them do, they don’t biodegrade.

Instead, they photodegrade, meaning they break down into smaller and smaller toxic pieces of plastic that contaminate the soil, waterways and eventually food, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Ask some locals why they’ve switched to reusable bags at the grocery store, and they’ll describe a sort of plastic bag anxiety, this sense that the bags are crawling everywhere, like vermin, and won’t go away.

“I got so sick of all those plastic bags accumulating in my house and seeing them everywhere ” in trees, on streets, etc.,” said Amy Niswanger. ” I changed to become more environmentally friendly and strongly support banishing plastic bags in the U.S.”

Newman said she thought of buying cloth bags a long time before she actually did ” she just didn’t quite have the motivation. Her turning point was a trip to Mexico, where she saw plastic bags literally blowing in the wind down every street she walked down.

“It got to the point where it really bugged me. I had to change,” Newman said.

In other places in the world, notably Ireland, the government has encouraged people to change by imposing a small tax on every plastic bag used. And instead of starting a riot of personal freedom demonstrators, using cloth bags has been a rallying point for the country, and those who still use plastic bags are socially frowned upon, according to a recent report in the New York Times.

Overall, Ireland has reduced is plastic bag use by 90 percent since 2002.

After years of packing grocery filled plastic bags into the back of cars, switching to cloth bags takes some mental conditioning to make habit.

“When I empty them at home, I put them by the front door then take back out to my car the next time out the door. It has become a habit,” Niswanger said.

Mike Gehard has been using cloth bags for about five years and says throwing them in his truck is a pretty strong habit now ” although he’ll still occasionally forget.

When he does forget, he’ll either have to shop another day, or he’ll try to think of some way to reuse the plastic bags in his house.

Checkout can sometimes be a hassle as well. It depends on the bagger, who may be a little thrown off by someone toting around their own grocery bags, or who might forget to credit you five cents a bag, Gehard said.

Really though, that’s nothing. In the end, that small, occasional inconvenience doesn’t bother him at all.

“It’s almost a no brainer ” our society is so used to having everything handed to us, and this little inconvenience is far outweighed by the improvements to the environment,” Gehard said.

Newman said it’s actually more convenient for her ” she doesn’t buy too many groceries, and she likes having bags that won’t break and tear.

Feel like changing? Newman and Gehard recommend shopping at http://www.reusablebags.com.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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