“Paper, or plastic?”
New Pioneer Food Co-op shoppers won’t hear that question after August 31. The Co-op announced a plan to phase out plastic bags, citing their notoriously negative environmental impact. (“Plastic,” notes their press release, “is the number one polluter of our oceans.”)
According to 100 Grannies, an environmental organization working with New Pi on this effort, “Americans use over 380 billion polyethylene bags and wraps per year, requiring an estimated 12 million barrels of oil to make these single-use plastics.” Of those 380 billion, a mere 5 percent are recycled.
“At New Pioneer, we are more than a cooperative grocery featuring local and organic food and products. We also have a commitment to the environment,” says New Pi Marketing Manager Jenifer Angerer. “Plastic never truly degrades in the environment: once it’s made, we’re stuck with it forever.”
Plastic bags photodegrade, breaking down into minute toxic parts, contaminating soil and water tables. Ocean debris kills at least 1 million seabirds and 100,000 mammals worldwide each year according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
New Pi will continue to offer paper bags made from 100% recycled Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper at no charge. The paper bags are printed with water-based inks and assembled with starch-based adhesives. “They are completely recyclable and 100% compostable,” says New Pi Education & Outreach Coordinator Theresa Carbrey.
“Of course,” Carbrey says, “we continue to believe that the best answer to the question ‘Paper or plastic?’ is neither, and that reusable bags are the answer.” After phasing out the use of plastic bags, New Pi plans to give away reusable shopping bags for several days.
“If everyone made this small change to reusable bags,” says Angerer, “we would make a very positive impact on our environment and affect the way we see all single-use plastics.”
By using a reusable bag for each shopping trip, consumers can save anywhere from 350 to 500 plastic bags per person, per year.