Month-long bag drive aims to reduce plastic waste
More than one trillion plastic bags are used annually worldwide, with an estimated 100 billion used by U.S. consumers. That equates to about 1,500 bags per family each year. Cuyahoga County estimates that 99% of the bags end up as litter or hauled to a landfill.
The state of Ohio has passed legislation that prohibits cities and towns from passing their own bans or fees on plastic bags. Any existing local laws on this topic are preempted by the state law.
Undeterred by the state legislation, Cuyahoga County's departments of Consumer Affairs and Sustainability are actively working with retailers and residents to curb the use of single-use plastic bags in the county.
“The power of a single individual action, such as giving up plastic bags and instead opting for reusable bags, could, if embraced by the masses, reduce the number of plastic bags used by the billions,” said Natalie Elwell, co-founder of the Cleveland Heights Green Team (CHGT).
Based on the incredible community response to last year’s Reusable Bag Collection Drive in the Heights, this April—Earth Month—CHGT and the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes is partnering with the county for a second collection drive.
Clean and gently used reusable bags can be dropped off throughout the month at the two Cleveland Heights Phoenix Coffee locations, on Coventry Road and Lee Road; and at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. For more information visit www.chgreenteam.org.
The reusable bag drive gets excess/unused bags out of private homes and into the community, where they are distributed to people who need bags and may not have the ability or inclination to purchase their own.
According to Katharyne Starinsky, program officer for Cuyahoga County's Bring Your Own Bags program, “The county is committed to helping retailers eliminate plastic bags from their checkouts and educating consumers about the benefits of bringing their own bags."
Starinsky works with community groups and green teams throughout the county to help them conduct their own bag drives and distribute them to area nonprofits who serve people in need.
Also in April, the county will announce the recipients of its Sustainable Stores Grant, which provides funding to retailers to make changes to their business operations in order to eliminate plastic checkout bags.
Additionally, said Starinsky, “The county will be launching the Sustainable Stores Map to celebrate and promote businesses who are plastic bag free.” To learn more about the Sustainable Stores Program, visit cuyahogacounty.us/byobags.
[Editor's note: This article was updated on April 11 to correct drop-off location information. There are no drop-off locations in University Heights.]
Catalina Wagers, a resident of Cleveland Heights' Fairfax neighborhood, is co-founder of the Cleveland Heights Green Team.