Reusable bag use on the rise

Photo by MD Anderson's Focuse on Health, Flickr

Iowans are using reusable bags more than ever before, but some U.S. cities are showing Iowa that there’s room for considerable improvement. The Press-Citizen reported yesterday that, based on non-quantified information, more people in our state more people bring reusable bags to grocery stores than ever before. Additionally, some grocers are creating incentives to encourage customers to bring these reusable bags:

Local stores, such as Hy-Vee and New Pioneer, have seen significant decreases in the need to supply paper and plastic bags, and some stores offer incentives for customers to use reusable bags to carry out their groceries.

New Pioneer kicked off its initiative to encourage customers to use reusable bags on Earth Day 2009 by charging a nickel per paper or plastic bag. Since then, the co-op has seen a 60 percent reduction in bag consumption at its Coralville location, and a 55 percent reduction at the Iowa City store, marketing manager Jenifer Angerer said. Proceeds from the use of paper and plastic bags go to the Iowa City Crisis Center.

However, today’s Los Angeles Times reveals that Iowa could soon be lagging behind in reusable bag use. Earlier this week an L.A. councilman proposed a ban on single-use paper and plastic bags. Other California cities placed bans on plastic bags in recent years, but none of the previous bans included paper. Some proponents of L.A.’s proposal hope that it will eventually lead to a statewide ban:

By including paper bags in the ban, the proposal goes beyond similar measures taken recently by other California cities and counties. Although L.A. County, Santa Monica and other municipalities have banned plastic bags in recent years, most have allowed stores to sell paper ones for a small fee.

“With paper bags, you’re still generating litter,” said Councilman Paul Koretz, who introduced the motion proposing the ban. “We’re taking the next step.”

Environmentalists celebrated the news and said they hoped that it would push Sacramento lawmakers to enact a statewide ban.

The negative environmental impact of single-use bags has been known for years. A National Geographic article from back in 2003 stated that up to a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, with as much as three percent becoming litter. The same article argues that paper bag use might result in even greater detriment to the environment.

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