Group gives out bamboo bags for cleaner Sanibel

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SANIBEL, Fla. – One organization wants to change the way you shop. They’re hoping everyone on Sanibel stops using plastic bags to lessen the litter.

Solutions To Avoid Red Tide (START), used the acronym, B.Y.O.B. to campaign for people to “bring your own bag,” meaning bring your own shopping bag.

“I had a lot of comments when we were handing these out,” said program coordinator, Ben Biery, “They’re like BYOB?”

It takes 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade, and that’s why the START program is trying to get people to use a reusable bag they designed instead.

“These are going to decompose more quickly,” Biery said, “these are actually made of bamboo.”

Florida legislation limits packaging regulation, which also means a community like Sanibel can’t ban plastic bags; what they can do, however, is promote the alternative.

“I’d like to see us not use plastic bags by choice,” Biery said.

START invested $15,000 into the bamboo bags. They handed them out at grocery stores, bait shops and Billy’s Bike Shop on the island. The response was overwhelming.

“Way, way, way better than we could have ever even hoped,” Biery said. “We’re going to have to reorder soon. We’ve blown through so many of these bags.”

About 4,500 of the initial 5,000 bags ordered were gone within two days of the launch.

The organization hopes people will make the conscious decision to recycle and reuse, and as a result, keep Sanibel clean. The back side of the bag is currently plain, that’s because the START program is hoping local businesses will sponsor the effort, so they can continue to hand out the bags for free.

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