We have some exciting news to announce. Our Los Alamos Smith's Food and Drug Stores is the top store, out of 132 stores, in the sale of Smith's reusable bags. During the last fiscal period, our store sold 4,674 bags. Our White Rock store came in 9th with 1915 bags sold. We think this success is in part due to our educational campaign. We have given away free reusable bags to elementary school children. We have made a traveling exhibit and set it out at several locations around town. We have given presentations to our classmates as well as to Smith employees. We have been to festivals to hand out information. We have made and sold bag reminders to hang in people's cars. Finally, we have finished a clay animation public service announcement to be aired in our local theater. It is rewarding to know that kids can make a difference. Thank you, Los Alamos!
Smith's Update, March 2009
Recently the Kinnikinnick Club received good news from Mr. John Roberts at the Los Alamos Smith's
Food and Drug Store. During the 52 weeks of the campaign, 865,170 fewer plastic bags were given
out. This equated to 432 cases LESS in plastic bags making it to our landfill. Mr. Roberts also
reported that they sold over 11,000 reusable bags. Customers who used reusable bags at the
checkout counter, received a refund of five cents for each. Smith's gave out refunds for over 94,000
reusable bags, which added up to $12,640.00 in nickel refunds. The Public Relations Director for
Smith's Food and Drug Stores has taken the initiative to introduce throughout the entire Kroger
Company the reusable bag program that the Kinnikinnick Club kids started. Wow!
The story begins... with... once upon a time...
...there were no single-use plastic shopping bags - that was just 25 years ago. Now, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. That comes out to over one million per minute.
What's so bad about plastic bags?
Single-use shopping bags made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are long-lived. Once brought into existence to tote your purchases, they'll accumulate and persist on our planet for up to 1,000 years.
Plastic bags do not biodegrade. They photo degrade and break down into smaller and smaller microscopic pieces. These small particles harm our environment by contaminating the soil, water and food web. Plastic bags also pose a serious danger to wildlife. From whales to zooplankton, from seabirds to duck ponds, tens of thousands of animals die each year of stress, suffocation, and choking.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags. The energy needed to manufacture and transport disposable bags eats up more resources and creates global warming emissions.
An estimated 8 billion pounds of plastic bags, wraps and sacks enter the waste stream every year in the US alone, putting an unnecessary burden on our diminishing landfill space and causing air pollution if incinerated. Recycling rates for plastic bags are extremely low. Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags end up getting recycled. The plastic is of low quality and not in high demand. In addition, recycling requires energy for collection and processing, which makes recycling even less economically feasible.
Retailers spend an estimated $4 billion on their plastic store bags-- and pass the costs on to consumers.
Then there is the... Trash Tsunami... Garbage Stew... The Eastern Garbage Patch...
...these names all describe the brewing cauldron of plastic grocery bags, tires, water bottles, bath toys floating in the ocean.
We have all seen colorful plastic bags waving in the wind, stuck in trees and bushes, but what we don't see here in New Mexico is the harmful impact on ocean life. One area in the North Pacific - 1000 miles off of California - is a great vortex of ocean currents, with a swirling mass of plastic trash that is twice the size of Texas! Plastic debris acts like a sponge for toxic chemicals, soaking up a million fold greater concentration of such deadly compounds as PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the insecticide DDT), than the surrounding seawater. In other areas of the ocean, scientists are finding that there is six times as much minuscule plastic than plankton in the water - and that is what the animals eat! Turtles think the bags are jellyfish, their primary food source. Once swallowed, plastic bags choke animals or block their intestines, leading to an agonizing death.
Eight Solutions to the Plastic Bag Problem
ACTION: Bring Your Own Bag when you shop and switch to durable cloth bags or bags made from recycled materials
TIP: Keep your bags handy in your car. Be willing to go back out and get your bags if you forget
them. Remember that Smith's Food and Drug Stores will give you a $.05 rebate for each reusable
bag you use at checkout.
FACT: Four out of five grocery bags in the US are plastic. Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. The bag will pay for itself if your grocery store offers a credit for bringing your own bags.
ACTION: Use fewer plastic trashcan liners or none at all.
TIP: Sort your trash into recyclables, non-recyclables and compost. Wrap your compostable scraps in newspaper and throw them directly into the compost pile. You'll use fewer trashcan liner bags when you sort.
FACT: Plastic shopping bags are a major contaminant in curbside recycling bins. They are not
accepted because they are of little recyclable value. There are also very few recyling centers for
plastic shopping bags. In our community, we are fortunate that our local Smith's Food and Drug
Stores accept plastic bags for recycling. Our bags are trucked back in otherwise empty trucks to a
plastic bag recycling center in Arizona.
#3 GET CREATIVE AND REUSE
ACTION: Do something useful with plastic bags that you do end up collecting. Let's face it, no matter how hard we try to not accept plastic bags, a few always seem to slip into the house!
TIP: Reuse the plastic by fusing the bags into fabric. You can then make your own reusable bag (or anything else) from the bags you got stuck with. Here's how: Fused Plastic Bag Crafts Page.
FACT: Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC one group harvests 30,000 per month.
#4 PROMOTE REUSABLE BAGS
ACTION: Retailers, hang plastic bag reduction posters and offer cloth bags for sale near your store checkout.
TIP: Train your staff to ask all customers if they would like to buy a reusable bag.
FACT: Beginning on June 1 2008, for the entire country of China, all supermarkets, department stores and shops will be prohibited from giving out free plastic bags. Stores must clearly mark the price of plastic shopping bags and are banned from tacking that price onto products. The production, sale and use of ultra-thin plastic bags - those less than 0.025 millimeters, or 0.00098 inches, thick - are also banned.
#5 JUST SAY NO
ACTION: Say NO to plastic bags when you check out at the store.
TIP: Check to see if your purchase is sufficiently packaged. If so, you will not need a bag.
FACT: A person's use of a plastic checkout bag can be counted in minutes - however long it takes to get from the shops to their homes. Plastic bags however, can take up to 1000 years to break down in a landfill.
#6 SAY "NEITHER"
ACTION: When asked, "paper or plastic," say neither.
TIP: Think BYOB, "Bring your Own Bag."
FACT: In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that year alone. Also it takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag.
#7 LITTER, LITTER EVERYWHERE
ACTION: Make sure that your plastic bags get thrown away in the trash instead of letting them blow away and get into the environment.
TIP: Take a one-gallon plastic milk jug and cut a window in the side. Stuff your plastic bags in it to store them for reuse or until you make a trip to the trash can.
FACT: Whether it's inadvertent or deliberate, plastic bag litter creates many problems. They end up blocking drains and trapping birds. In the marine environment plastic bag litter is lethal, killing many birds, whales, seals and turtles every year. After plastic bags kill an animal, its body decomposes and the plastic is released back into the environment where it can kill again.
#8 COMMUNITY CLEANUP
ACTION: Join a community clean-up effort in your town or start one.
TIP: In many towns you can adopt of stretch of road for keeping litter-free. Sign up your friends or organization to join this effort. In Los Alamos there is an annual Community Cleanup Day along with Earth Day on April 22nd.
FACT: Plastic bags are one of the top items of litter on our community beaches, roads, sidewalks, and vegetation along with cigarette butts and Styrofoam. Approximately 47% of wind borne litter escaping from landfills is plastic - much of this is plastic bags.