The average American creates between four and seven pounds of waste every day. Seward Co-op, however, remains ahead of the curve with our commitment to creating a healthier environment. The city of Minneapolis is thinking about the environment too, and has proposed a new bag ordinance that will go into effect on June 1.
The ordinance was created with an eye towards reducing litter, waste and lifecycle environmental impacts, as well as negative impacts on recycling facilities of single-use bags. Additionally, the city hopes the ordinance will incentivize Minneapolis consumers to use reusable bags. The ordinance states that retailers charge a pass through fee of .05 cents per bag. While the co-op will charge .05 cents per disposable bag, we will also continue to give .10 cents to customers who bring in their own reusable bags (on up to five bags per transaction). This is a practice we have had for several years. Our Scorecard states that in 2016, we gave back $37,000 to customers using reusable bags. That’s 370,000 disposable bags kept out of the waste stream!
The impact from changing behavior patterns can be significant. A plastic bag tax levied in Ireland in 2002 has led to a 95% reduction in plastic bag litter there. And a study by San Jose, Calif., found that a 2011 ban led to a reduction in bag litter of 89% in the storm drain system, 60% in creeks and rivers, and 59% in the city streets and neighborhoods. And it’s not just plastic bag waste. There are issues with paper bags, as well. One of the reasons for the .05 cent charge is to discourage customers from shopping with disposable bags. Here are a few facts about paper bags, and why reusing bags is a great choice.
- The U.S. cuts down 14 million trees a year to supply the raw material to make paper shopping bags.
- It takes 13% more energy to make a single paper bag than to make two plastic bags.
- Paper bag production involves the use of chemicals and high temperatures, and it releases toxins into the atmosphere at nearly the same rate as plastic bag production.
- Paper bags weigh almost 10 times as much as plastic bags, meaning that more fuel is required to ship them to stores.
- Despite being highly recyclable, only 20% of paper bags end up being recycled, while the rest share a fate with their plastic brethren.
- In landfills, paper bags create more than twice as much atmospheric waste as plastic bags do, so they’re not necessarily a better choice for the environment.
We are optimistic that the bag ordinance will decrease the amount of waste in Minneapolis. Seward Co-op has several styles of reusable bags available for purchase around the store. We feel this ordinance contributes to the co-op’s ongoing commitment to sustain a healthy community that has positive environmental impacts.