Aiming for a plastic-free Truckee
Nevada Appeal News Service
Some people pile them under the kitchen sink.
Others use them to line their waste baskets.
But in the end, nearly 19 billion plastic grocery bags end up in California’s landfills or littering the state’s roadways.
The Town of Truckee, in a unique partnership with an Alder Creek Middle School class and with funds from a Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation grant, aims to reduce the number of discarded shopping bags in Truckee by distributing 2,000 reusable cotton bags.
“We want to make it second nature, or habit, to carry these cotton bags,” said Truckee Recycling Coordinator Nichole Dorr. “We want to really reduce the garbage we see on the side of the road or floating around.”
The $10,000 grant to the town’s Solid Waste and Recycling Division will buy 2,000 organic cotton bags – or enough for about one in eight Truckee residents, Dorr said.
“The community foundation really supports different ways to help the environment,” said Phebe Bell, a foundation program officer. “We think this is a wise approach working through the children.”
The idea came about when state lawmakers passed a statute requiring grocery stores and retail outlets that use plastic bags to also provide recycling for those bags, Dorr said.
The town’s recycling program doesn’t have the ability to process plastic grocery bags, she said, so the program is also meant to raise awareness about plastic bags in general.
Only 1-4 percent of the bags get recycled in California, according to a town staff report.
But it won’t be the town handing the bags out – it will be Alder Creek Middle School students in Sue Mock’s sixth-grade ecology class, Dorr said.
“We’re trying to create an opportunity for students to engage in the community,” Dorr said.
Mock said her students will be coming up with a plan for distributing the cotton bags and educating the public about recycling.
“Nichole (Dorr) doesn’t tell them how to do it,” Mock said. “It’s up to them.”
Service projects allow the students to understand the connection between what they learn and the community, Mock said.
This isn’t the first project the students in Mock’s 12-week exploratory class have taken on, recently distributing blue recycling bags in town and even digging a trench to connect solar power to the new middle school, she said.
Dorr said she will gauge how well the students inform the public about recycling by surveying the recipients of the reusable shopping bags, information the town will use to improve its recycling program.
The cotton totes should be distributed by March, Dorr said.
The organic cotton bags are being made and printed with town-designed art by EnviroTote. According to the EnviroTote Web site, the organically grown cotton doesn’t use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, instead relying on crop rotation, crop residues, animal manure, compost, nitrogen-fixing legume crops, and botanical or biological controls.