A campaign called Bring Your Own Bag Saratoga, a project from the group Sustainable Saratoga, is reaching out to city government, businesses and members of the public to decrease the use of plastic shopping bags.
The group is hoping to reduce pollution and encourage city residents to shop with reusable bags. Though plastic shopping bags are recyclable, the group claims less than five percent of bags are recycled, and most can only be recycled into other products once. If released into the environment, plastic bags cause harm to birds and marine animals.
But although armed with this knowledge, Margie Shepard, Co-Chair of Bring Your Own Bag Saratoga, said that the campaign will attempt to do more than just warn about environmental dangers.
"We have this idea which emphasizes what you can do - use a reusable bag - without having to hear about every bird that has been killed by a plastic bag," said Shepard.
Next month, BYOBag Saratoga will be screening, Bag It, a documentary film on the negative effects of plastic bags, and will hold a public discussion with advocates and representatives of local businesses on a plan to reduce use in Saratoga Springs. Shepard says eventually she’d like to see city government take on the issue.
"We are hoping eventually to go to the city and have them pass a ban - an ordinance - that would ban plastic bags," said Shepard.
Gloria Griskowitz, co-owner of Putnam Market, a specialty grocery store that also serves takeout foods, has been trying to reduce the use of plastic packaging materials in recent years – a move that met with mixed reactions from customers.
"When we first switched to all-paper we had a lot of resistance to customers," said Griskowitz.
Griskowitz said that in the end, it made sense to offer a choice to shoppers. She said her business now offers plastic and paper food packaging materials.
Griskowitz said plastic bags are cheaper, and easier to store and transport than paper bags. However, she said that she would willingly comply with any proposal to restrict or ban plastic bags in her community.
In May, voters in Great Barrington, Massachusetts placed a ban on plastic bags to take effect on January 1st, 2014. A ban on polystyrene containers had already been in effect for the past 20 years. Several other communities in Massachusetts have also passed materials bans, including Amherst and Brookline.
Ryan Kierney of The Retailers Association of Massachusetts told WAMC last year that as more communities consider restrictions on materials, it creates headaches for businesses with stores in multiple locations.
"For instance we plastic bottles in Concord, we see styrene contains in Boston and Brookline...basically if you start multiplying that it becomes a compliance nightmare for businesses," said Kierney.
Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Finance Michelle Madigan, who said she learned to bring her own bags on shopping trips while living overseas, said she would support a proposal to reduce the use of plastic bags.
"At this point I would support an education component to it," said Madigan.
Madigan said that she is unsure if she would support an outright ban on plastic bags.
For more information visit: http://www.sustainablesaratoga.org/work/plastic-bag-initiative/