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Sanibel STARTing to phase out plastic bags

By Staff | Dec 2, 2015

Bailey’s General Manager Richard Johnson and START’s Ben Biery, started the BYOB drive Wednesday, Nov. 25, with the goal of handing out 5,000 free bamboo reusable bags on Sanibel Island. Other locations included Jerry’s Super Market, Billy’s Bike Rentals, Sanibel Sea School, The Bait Box and a host of condos on the island. BRIAN WIERIMA

For an average of 12 minutes, that plastic bag used to carry an item purchased in a store is put to good use.

But after those 12 minutes are up, that same plastic bag will remain a negative influence on the environment for up to 1,000 years and with 160,000 plastic bags used globally every second and with 10 percent of those ending up in the Earth’s oceans, it’s a problem on a global scale.

Positive baby steps are being taken right here on Sanibel, though, with the island’s non-profit organization START kicking off its BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) initiative last Wednesday, Nov. 25.

The volunteer organization handed out 5,000 free reusable bamboo bags, which can be used in replacing plastic bags for one’s grocery shopping or any other type of shopping to carry out items.

“We all know plastic bags are bad for the environment and they are used for about 12 minutes and they don’t biodegrade,” said START’s Ben Biery. “Instead, they photodegrade and break down into smaller pieces and can last up to 1,000 years. Plastic bags are the top pieces of litter we find on our beaches and we’ve all seen photos of sea turtles and marine wildlife eating or getting wrapped up in them.

The Taylor family of Anne, Sage, Bodhi, Kayden and Zaddek, hand out the BYOB bags from START, which are made out of bamboo and are microbial and washable. BRIAN WIERIMA

“We want to voluntarily phase out the use of plastic bags and we are providing these reusable shopping bag totes and giving them out for free to do just that.”

The initial goal was to ban the use of plastic bags, but there is a Florida state law which prohibits such action. Instead, START created the BYOB program and plans to continue raise awareness of the dangers of plastic bags and encourage not using plastic bags.

“We have the bags branded with the BYOB logo, as well as stats about the harm plastic bags do to the environment, so it’s used as an education vehicle, as well,” Biery said.

The reusable bags are made of bamboo, which contains microbial properties, meaning the bags can be washed of harmful bacteria or germs which can collect in the bags. The bags are sturdy and will last a long time with use.

Businesses which took part in the free handout of the reusable bags included Bailey’s General Store, Jerry’s Supermarket, all three of the Billy’s Bike Rentals, Sanibel Sea School, the Bait Box and the condo association, which will hand out the bags to guests as they arrive on the island.

For Bailey’s General Manager Richard Johnson, the BYOB program is a great start to helping the environment and he wanted his store to be a part of that movement.

“We handed the bags out on the busiest day of the year (day before Thanksgiving),” Johnson said. “There have been communities which has enacted legislation to ban plastic bags, but I am not a force you to do things kind of guy. But instead, we can show by example and show the direct benefits of the bamboo bag and having the microbial properties in the bag, is critical, because it’s washable and reusable.”

There will be a BYOB logo painted on the walkways leading into the Bailey store, which will be a helpful reminder to go back to your car and pick up your reusable bamboo bag.

After the 5,000 bags have been handed out, Biery said the group will look into further promoting the program and possibly putting sponsors on the future bags.

“There’s a real good possibility for that, too,” Johnson added.

To learn more about the START organization and the BYOB program, go to start1.org/ for more information.