On Earth Day on Friday, the Cortez community will be encouraged to end its habit of using single-use plastic bags at the grocery store.
For the past several months, Cortez resident Laura Herrick has been working with students, grocery stores and retailers to promote and distribute free reusable sacks.
The initiative was awarded an $11,000 grant from the LOR Foundation.
On Friday, Herrick and a team of 25 volunteers will set up all day at City Market, Walmart and Safeway to distribute reusable bags and provide information about the benefits of curbing single-use plastic bags.
Plastic bags contribute to pollution on land and the oceans, harm wildlife, take centuries to degrade and pose difficulties to recycle.
The practical and convenient solution of reusable bags was inspiration to address the problem, Herrick said.
“The issues of the environment are so huge, it is hard to know where to start. Shopping with these reusable sacks is a simple way to help,” she said.
The vinyl bags compress into a small bundle and will fit in a purse or pocket. They hold up to 50 pounds.
Smaller, reusable mesh produce sacks also will be handed out to replace the plastic bags commonly used at grocery stores. Produce in the mesh bags can be scanned at the checkout.
“We will be giving these away at the three grocery stores, then people can practice when they go in to shop,” Herrick said.
She said the habit is easy to pick up. Keep reusable bags in your car. It only takes going back to your car three times to stop forgetting it, she said.
The grocery stores will be giving away their reusable bags as well.
Local students from the elementary, middle and high schools participated in the project. They dubbed it SUP2Sack, an abbreviation for transitioning from single-use plastic to reusable sacks.
The SUP2Sack project purchased 5,000 reusable bags to give away and 8,000 mesh produce bags. They were provided to local retail stores as well as grocery stores.
Based on information provided by store managers, Herrick estimated that 30,000 single-use plastic bags are sent out the door every day from grocery and retail stores in Cortez.
A reusable bag can replace 500 single-use plastic bags in a year.
Kroger Co., City Market’s parent company, aims to eliminate single-use plastic bags by 2025, according to its website.
In 2021, the Colorado Legislature voted to ban single-use plastic bags at most stores starting in 2024.
Montezuma-Cortez High School student Lily Sandner won the poster contest for the initiative.
Fourth grade student Emmett Parks won the contest for the best explanation of the issue. He wrote:
“I think single-use plastic bags should be eliminated because millions of them are getting dumped in the ocean and sea creatures eat them and die. We need to act now and use reusable bags. Some states have banned them already. Ten percent of all trash in the ocean is plastic bags. Single-use plastic bags take hundreds of years to biodegrade leaving microplastics behind. We need to ban single-use plastic bags to save animals and our future.”