The effort to reduce plastic bags

March 24 meeting expected to attract government officials, merchants in effort to reduce throw-aways bags

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  • Photo illustration Sustainable Warwick is hosting a summit on March 24 to discuss reducing single-use plastic bags.

— Under the auspices of Sustainable Warwick, a “plastic bag summit” is planned for Warwick on Tuesday, March 24.

“The idea,” according to event organizer Michelle Desveaux, “is to bring together all the ‘major players’ who have a stake in this issue to see if an approach can be agreed upon that will significantly reduce the use of throw-away plastic bags in Warwick.”

Expected at the meeting will be Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton, the mayors of the town's three villages, representatives of ShopRite and Price Chopper, the chambers of commerce, the Merchants Guild and the farmers markets.

Operating beliefsOrganizers said the idea for the meeting arose because:

The realization that plastic bags and the related disposal problems have created a serious and ever-worsening crisis globally, one that affects our landfills, our oceans, our food streams and our health.

The awareness that real-world solutions exist, that other communities — other towns, entire states, whole countries — have successfully implemented a variety of creative, effective solutions to the problem.

A belief that Warwick, with its strong tradition of community and farmland preservation, is the kind of place where leaders, residents, and merchants (see related article) can work together to achieve this important goal.

Sweeton said it was important in “getting all the right people in the same room at the same time and hearing what they have to say.”

Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard added: “When I notice the plastic bags and other debris in our recently revitalized Wawayanda Creek, I see the problem clearly. As a community, we need to be proactive on this front.”

In anticipating the summit, Geoff Howard of Sustainable Warwick talked about the nature of change.

“Getting people to change the way the do things, to change from throwaway plastic bags to reusable bags will take some adjustment,” Howard said. “But we know from other communities that these changes do take hold and that within a fairly small period of time, it becomes the ‘new normal’ the way we do our shopping.”

What two merchants are doingPennings Farm Market and Jean Claude’s Patisserie have started their own programs to address the issue.

At Pennings, the new policy as of Feb. 1 is to charge 25 cents for each plastic bag until the current inventory runs out.

Customers will be encouraged to switch over to the market’s own reusable bags which will be available for $2 — and free with a purchase of $50 or more.

“We see this as the natural next step for us," said Kaitlyn LeLoup, Penning's marketing director. "We already have solar panels on the roof, an emphasis on local vendors and things like grass-fed beef and fresh eggs. And our customers are very supportive. So far, we’ve had nothing but positives.”

At Jean Claude’s, the patisserie has switching over to OXO biodegradable bags which are both reusable and recyclable, and they expect to eventually move to 100 percent paper.

“It costs us a little more," said co-owner Annette Sanchez, "but we feel it’s worth it.”

To learn more, visit

Editor's note: This story was provided by Sustainable Warwick.

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