Bring your own bag

Heidi Super


In December I had the pleasure of attending an impromptu get-together with charter members of Friends of the Souris River and a few additional like-minded Minot citizens. Although we are an informal group, I was reassured and re-energized by the focus of the meeting – how to reduce the use of plastic in Minot – especially single-use plastic bags.

As a “Friend” I am particularly concerned about the inevitable (and ongoing) impact of plastic bags on the health of the Souris River and its wildlife. Anyone who walks along the river or who navigates it in summer is sure to find plastic bags one of the most common pollutants in and near the river. Beyond the Souris, plastic is making its way into major waterways and eventually our oceans, as well as the bodies of living things. Discarded plastic waste has become a global concern.

MarketPlace Foods and Cashwise stores in Minot have improved practices of recycling plastic bags, making bins more visible and closer to checkout areas. That’s certainly a step in the right direction as the EPA estimates fewer than 5% of plastic bags are recycled.

But as an organization, the FOSR would like to see bolder measures to reduce the use of plastic bags. We endorse all efforts of businesses in the community to move to asking you provide your own bag, providing financial incentive for using reusable tote bags, or probably more effective, charging a fee for plastic bags.

It can be done. Two U.S. states and the District of Columbia have already implemented a ban on, or fee for plastic bags. Four U.S. states have strict laws on labeling and recycling of plastic bags. Approximately 200 U.S. cities have implemented bans on plastic bags by local legislation. Approximately 35 countries around the world do not allow plastic bags. In virtually every country I have visited outside the U.S. “bring your own bag” is an accepted practice, whether or not an outright ban is in place.

We agreed that legislation (at all levels) is slow and the plastic bag problem is too urgent to wait for mandated change. Please consider making it YOUR practice to reduce plastic bag use. Refuse a bag for items with handles (Milk jugs, prebagged produce) or when you have only one or 2 items. Demand a box or keep one in your car to load from your cart. Reuse you plastic bags from grocery stores instead of discarding or even recycling. (Although I recently tried to reuse a plastic bag, only to have it fly out of my cart in the constant Minot wind.)

Reusable bags are everywhere – for nominal cost or free as a promotional tool for businesses or causes. Look for them. Place a set in every vehicle. Shop, put your goods away, and zip them back to the car/truck. A Minot citizen and local business owner proposed having “take and use” (borrow) bags available in stores for times when we forget. In my home, reusable bags seem to multiply and exceed our need. I’m guessing many families could donate many bags to be used in emergencies.

Businesses advertise on reusable bags and donate bags to grocery and big box stores. Other cities, including Fargo have recently been featured for education an measures to reduce plastic bag use.

This week, observe the numbers of plastic bags people are taking from grocery stores, the mall, and stores like Walmart and Target. Imagine 5% recycled, 90% in the landfill, and another 5% in your environment. If you are shopping with 20 people, it’s likely that some of those bags you see will end up in and near the Souris River.

Like all habits, letting go of convenient-comes-with-my-purchase—bags, may take some time. Start the practice. Be the example. Encourage others.