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START’s BYOB program has given out 9,475 reusable bags to local businesses

By Staff | Jul 20, 2016

Bailey’s General Manager Richard Johnson and START’s Ben Biery, started the BYOB drive FILE PHOTO

START’s BYOB program has progressed tremendously since its initial launch last November.

So far, the program has handed out 9,475 reusable bags to local businesses on Sanibel.

Ben Biery, START’s program coordinator, said the program was first discussed two years ago. An anonymous donor came to Biery asking what can be done the help alleviate the use of plastic bags on Sanibel.

START began doing research on banning plastic bags but they came to find out that there are strict laws in Florida that restrict municipalities from regulating packaging.

“So instead, we came up with this two-prong initiative that educates people on not using plastic bags and at the same time, we’re giving them a tool to stop using plastic bags by giving them a reusable bag. We’re informing and arming the public,” Biery said.

The businesses that are involved with BYOB are Bailey’s General Store, Jerry’s Supermarket, East End Deli, Sanibel Gear, CVS, all three of the Billy’s Bike Rentals, the Sanibel Sea School, the Bait Box and even some resorts on the east end of the island are participating.

Calli Johnson, project manager at Bailey’s, said that they use the money they save on buying plastic bags to give back to charitable events in the community.

“Giving back to the community is something that has always been very important to us and we’re always looking for new ways to do that. There are a lot of forces in the community that are pushing towards sustainability regarding plastic and paper bag use on the island. While we can’t stop giving people paper and plastic bags, we can certainly encourage them to bring reusable bags back in,” Johnson said.

Since November, they have done two more launches. The first one was around Christmas and the second one was around Easter.

“The response has been great,” Biery said. “We’ve had very few people say anything negative. Most people want more than one bag and they want to know what they can do to help.”

The second batch of their reusable bags featured the names of the sponsors on the bag. Right now, Biery is planning a third batch of bags to be given out around Thanksgiving or Christmas and a fourth one around New Year’s. He’s hoping these will be the biggest batches yet.

Future endeavors for Biery include holding a fundraiser at Florida Cracker Fest Nov. 4 to help raise more money for buying reusable bags for the program.

For more information about the START organization and the BYOB program, go to start1.org.