On Friday, April 5 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Gazebo, students can properly get rid of any and all plastic bags as part of Winona State University’s Bag the Bag campaign. Winona State’s Communication Studies students will be getting rid of plastic bags for anyone who drops them off.
The Bag Your Plastic Bags event, hosted by Bag the Bag campaign members, aims to spread awareness on plastic usage by suggesting the banning of single-use plastic bags at Winona State. These include bags students get from restaurants and dining centers like Panda Express and Somo on campus, as well as plastic grocery bags from places like Target, Wal-Mart and Kwik Trip.
By bringing these kinds of plastic bags to the event, students will be properly recycling them – something that doesn’t always happen by tossing them into the regular recycling bins.
“Even when you put your recyclables into a plastic grocery or garbage bag and throw the whole thing into a roadside recycling bin, they [waste management] don’t recycle the bags,” said Jessica Alberts, who is Bag the Bag’s Facebook page handler and a communication studies leadership and advocacy major.
For plastic grocery bags to be recycled in Winona County, there is an entirely different process that takes place: Winona County employs a “take-back” system, collecting from larger stores like Target and local grocers specifically for these types of plastic bags to be disposed of separately.
The Wal-Mart and Target locations in Winona have plastic bag drop-offs for the public to use, which is where the Bag the Bag campaign members will be bringing the bags donated at the event to. Other plastic bag drop-offs include three Festival Foods and JCPenney locations in La Crosse, Onalaska and other places nearby.
As described by the Winona County Sustainability director, Anne Morse, these types of plastic bags can cause a slow-down in the regular curbside recycling pick-up process since they do not break down like other recyclables.
According to the Clean Air Council, plastic bags cost around $4,000 to properly recycle while the product made from that recycled matter only sells for $32. It is costly as it is to dispose of them the right way, so disposing of them the wrong way could break the pockets of many waste management businesses.
“It’s important to note that while distressing, recycling plastic bags is still a much better alternative than letting them end up in landfills or littered around,” Alberts said. “Plastic bags can cause horrible harm to our land and sea life.”
Waste Management stated that only one percent of plastic bags are actually returned to be recycled annually, while the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program has stated that up to 80 percent of pollution enters the ocean from land. If those numbers were reversed, plastic pollution and pollution in general would have had an entirely different effect on the world’s environment today.
At the Bag Your Plastic Bags event, students are encouraged to donate any of their plastic bags and will receive a free sticker if they bring five or more bags, while supplies last. Nine communication studies students will be running the event and will be answering questions about the recycling process, how to take further steps in reducing plastic use, as well as encouraging the spread of awareness on the subject.
Because the Bag the Bag campaign and group is a part of a Winona State spring semester course, the group has no other planned events for the remainder of the school year and will be meeting with Student Senate on the issue. If the first Bag Your Plastic Bags event is a success, there may be an end of the semester event added on.
“Don’t let the movement disappear when we’re gone. I think creating a club devoted to reducing use of single-use plastics on campus is an outstanding idea,” Alberts said.
Dozens of other practical and easy ways to reduce plastic consumption exist, including asking for no straw and/or lid on drinks ordered from restaurants and coffee shops, which is a completely free method to start utilizing. Other methods include using reusable bags which are often sold for $1-5 at most grocers and stores and can earn you discounts at Rochester Wholesale Fruit and Target in Winona, as well as switching to reusable water bottles for daily beverages and using shaving razors with replaceable blades rather than plastic disposable razors.
“Find something that works for you,” Alberts said. “Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but a single plastic bag has a life expectancy of up to 1,000 years. Everybody can help.”