There are plenty of positive things we can do individually to reduce our impact on natural resources: avoid single-use containers, cut out plastic straws and buy local ingredients that have traveled fewer miles to get to our plate. These are all worthy efforts. Yet imagine what could be accomplished if local businesses took the lead to reduce waste by eliminating plastic bags from the retail ecosystem.
A small local grocery store can use up to 20,000 plastic bags per week. This amounts to over 1 million single-use bags annually, and most end up in landfills, blowing in the wind like modern-day tumbleweeds, or floating in Lake Erie.
When you consider how many businesses and restaurants we have in Erie County, it becomes clear how serious a problem this is. A 2017 report by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that bags cost anywhere from 85 cents to $2 each, a significant cost of doing business.
But is it really a cost of doing business? There is no requirement to use plastic at the checkout line. Most businesses see it as a customer-service imperative. Ban the bag, and does it detract from the shopping experience? Not at all. Plenty of shoppers already opt for reusable, and some may use no bag at all for small purchases.
Many consider the locally owned businesses and restaurants the backbone of what makes Western New York such a wonderful place. Show the rest of the state what makes you stand out by standing up for our environment.