Everything you need to know about bags and more!
Using compostable “Biobags” successfully!
- Our compostable Biobags® contain a large portion of Non GMO corn starch; they “breathe” more.
- Fruits and vegetables with skins store better as ethylene gas that creates over-ripening is released.
- Firm produce like Broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, do not “sweat” and store well for days.
- Leafy greens wilt quickly (but do not rot). Try storing greens in washable, re-usable Debbie Meyer Green Bags .38¢/ea. or Peak Fresh .59¢/ea. They work great!
- Find them on the pillar by the onions
Thank you for helping to create the transition to compostable bags and keeping 2.3 million old style plastic bags out of the trash (Rainbow customer use 2012). Recology & SF Environment look to us to be the forerunners of change in the retail market
Let’s make it happen!
Q&A’s for the Curious & Concerned
Our Compostable Bags
First, we want to thank all of our customers for working with us to move away from plastic bags. We acknowledge change is challenging; there is a reason that plastics have become so pervasive in our world. They are clear, pliable, strong, and last a long time; however they have also been shown to be hormone disrupters and a significant contributor to wildlife death, and they last way too long in our landfills, our rivers and oceans!
A little History…..
As you’ve noticed, we began to offer compostable bags in both our produce and bulk sections back in October 2012. Before that, we had a thinner compostable bag in produce only and we were charging .10 each. We have been offering these new bags at no charge although costs to us have gone up from about .02 each to .09 each for our compostable bags. We’ve made the commitment to absorb the extra cost for a time while customers get used to the new bags for their shopping. We go through about 60,000 bags per month, so you can do the math! We’ll most likely have to charge in the future to help offset the increased cost to us.
Our Research…….. We conducted extensive research and learned a lot about plastics in general and the various “green” bags that are offered on the market today before making our decision. The bag we finally chose is the only one we could find made with non-GMO corn and with a higher than average ratio of starch to petroleum ingredients. You can follow the link to Biobags® USA below for more information about their production. The new bags are also sturdier and the same thickness as the old plastic ones. We hope to offer a compostable option for the smaller bulk bags in the future; but there are challenges around production and cost at this point that we still need to work out.
So, because nothing is as “perfect” as plastic…………………….We’ve received quite a number of customer comments; some positive but more reflecting some of the challenges of the new bags. We’d like to answer some of your questions and concerns about our compostable bulk and produce bags here, and help you use them successfully.
“The compostable bags seem to accelerate wilting especially cooking and salad greens. What can I do?” Our Biobags® are designed with a significant amount of non-GMO cornstarch. This composition causes the bags to “breathe” more than plastic and therefore moisture escapes more quickly. This can be good as it slows down condensation and rotting that can happen in plastic bags, but greens do wilt quickly. We suggest buying the re-usable breathable plastic bags; for example The “Debbie Meyer®” Bags that may be washed many, many, times. These are superior to the both the plastic and Biobags® for storing your leafy vegetables. Find them in our produce department by the onion bin.
“I used to re-use my plastic bags, but the Biobag® are not re-usable friendly, they tear easily and are not great for storing products, I’d like to have the plastic bags and re-use them.” Biobags® are best for transport only. They break down much faster; that is the benefit as well as the challenge. Please visit www.savesfbay.org/bay-vs-bag to see some of the problems of plastic bags that do not breakdown. While some people do re-use plastic bags, most people are still in the habit of using them and throwing them away. When we offered both Biobags® and plastic bags, about 80-90% of shoppers still grabbed the plastic. When we inventoried bag usage for 2011 we were sadly surprised to see our customers used 2.3 million plastic bags in just 12 months! This is a considerable contribution to the negative environmental impacts of plastic bags from just our store alone. As a worker owned business we voted to create the opportunity for the change in bag use that really needs to happen everywhere. You can always buy a box of Ziploc® plastic bags available at many stores and re-use them. Unfortunately plastic bags, unlike hard plastic or glass containers, cannot go into the blue Recology bins for recycling. Our Biobags® go in the green bin or can be used for a small compost pail liner. We offer a number of styles in Aisle 9, the sundries section.
“Why do some of the Biobags® smell when I open them? Is this bad?” Some people notice a smell, others do not. “The Materbi® resin we make Biobags® from, begins as little pellets which are melted and extruded into bags. There are starches and glycerin in the Materbi®…and when it is melted to create bags there are some odors but the Biobag® is 100% food contact safe. The organic corn based bags you carry are made of a high starch grade. If we want to go to no smell we need to go to CF51L, but that is not GMO free….”,a quote from Biobag® USA our supplier.
“I’d like you to keep the plastic bags for storing my herbs and spices, they keep herbs fresh longer!” Glass is best for freshness and flavor retention. Plastics have been shown to disrupt hormones in both humans and animals. We carry the glass spice jars for spice storage. Recycled glass vitamin bottles make great spice jars as well.
“I don’t like the compostable bags because I can’t see what’s inside.”
The cornstarch creates the opaque film. We researched bag alternatives for months! These are the only bags, manufactured from Mater Bi® film that are sourced from non-GMO corn and contain the least petroleum content of all “green” bags. Biobag® USA is hoping to come out with a clearer film bag this year, still made from non-GMO corn.
“The bags feel funny and are hard to open.”
The funny feel is also due to the cornstarch. If you have trouble opening one, just rub it between your hands a few times & it will open easily.
“Your Biobags® retain moisture and produce goes bad.”
We’re surprised at this experience as these bags breathe more and thus let moisture out (thus the wilting). Try the Debbie Meyer or Peak Fresh bags by the onion bin, they’re great!
“I’ve heard they do not break down well in compost, is this true?”
We were lucky enough to work closely with Recology, SF’s recycling and composting facility, and with SF Department of the Environment on the design and making of our compost bags, to ensure they are compatible with our recycling system. We are the only store in SF that has done this so far. Our Biobags® are both ASTM (ASTM ensures the rate of degradation is consistent with other compostable materials in the compost stream), and BPI certified. Recology responded directly when we called with your concern: “If they are the regular Biobags® and they say “compostable” and they are BPI certified, (which ours are…) then they have been tested and are verified to break down in a commercial compost facility. Sometimes “bioplastics” in general break down slower than other organic material, but our policy is if it is certified compostable we take it.” Home compost piles may not be hot enough to break down the Biobags®.
“When I took my pretzels to the park, I noticed small holes in the bag!”
While the Biobags® have proven strong for bulk items, pokey items like pretzels, seedy bagels or some pasta can make small holes through the bags, if packed tightly. Fill the compostable bags more loosely for transport and consider buying re-washable organic cotton bags-available in our bulk department. Those would work well for these types of products and be a great choice for taking pretzels to the picnic or soccer game!
Thanks for reading. Keep in touch and we hope to continue sharing ecology-related info on our website in the future.
Please feel welcome to contact Rainbow’s ecology committee with questions, ideas, concerns at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And, you can visit these websites for further information on plastics:
Look for Berkeley Ecology Center handouts on storing fruits and vegetables in our produce section!!!
Re-Usable bag options at Rainbow:
Produce Department Pillars:
- Debbie Meyer: .38/bag: Plastic with microscopic holes for best storage of produce. Re-use for 6 -12months.
- Peak-Fresh Bags: .59/bag: Plastic with microscopic holes for best storage of produce. Re-use for 6 -12months
- Chico polyester mesh bags: $2.40/bag. Will last years. Hard produce only or larger bulk items.
- Chico bags/w/stuff bag: 3 types, 1 cotton, 1 mesh, & 1 nylon: $14.99/pk. Will last years. Hard produce or larger bulk.
- Rainbow Unbleached Cotton bags: Made and printed in San Francisco hard produce and bulk: $3.49 med & $3.99 large.
Aisle 9 – Sundries Department:
- Biobag Storage re-sealable bags: .21/ea.
- Biobag Sandwich ziplock bag: .17/ea.
- Ziplock Plastic large: .11/ea.
- Slider plastic: .13/ea.
- Re-closeable Sandwich plastic bags: .04/ea.
Myths vs. Facts Regarding Single Use Bag Bans and Fees
Myth: Recycling plastic bags is the best solution to addressing the litter problem.
Fact: Plastic bag recycling is costly and just doesn’t work.
Despite a 15-year statewide effort in California, recycling plastic bags has failed. The California Integrated Waste Management Board estimates that less than 5 percent of all single use plastic bags in the state are actually recycled.1 Plastic bags cost municipal recycling programs millions each year, when bags jam sorting equipment at recycling facilities. In San Jose, less than four percent of plastic bags are recycled and work stoppages from jammed bags cost the City approximately $1 million per year.2 Failed recycling efforts means billions of plastic bags are thrown away, blow onto our streets and float into our waterways. Plastic bags are the quintessential litter item: there are billions of them, they are used for a few short minutes, and they are light and easily transportable.
Myth: Recycled plastic bags are a valuable commodity.
Fact: The market for recycled plastic bags is small and unstable.
At the moment, a single manufacturer, purchases 70 percent of the plastic bags recovered nationwide, to make outdoor decking.3 In 2008, Newsweek reported that the company lost $75 million in the previous year, raising questions about the long-term viability of the end market. Some curbside programs will take plastic bags if they are bundled, but the commodity is low grade and brings a low price, partly because it gets dirty during handlingand transportation. Even the plastic bag industry doesn’t use its own post-consumer material. Recyclers are sometimes forced to stockpile bales of bags or even pay to get rid of them.
Myth: Bans or fees on plastic bags will just push people to use more paper bags.
Fact: With well-designed policies that address both plastic and paper bags, consumers will switch to reusable cloth bags.
The legislation supported by Save The Bay and other advocates covers all single-use bags, both paper and plastic. This is a proven way to decrease the use of both kinds of bags in favor of reusable bags – which are inexpensive and long-lasting – ultimately saving retailers and consumers money. Every year in the U.S, consumers and retailers spend billions of dollars on excessive quantities of single-use bags that have an average use time of 12 minutes.4
Myth: A fee on plastic bags didn’t work in Ireland.
Fact: Ireland’s bag fee dramatically reduced plastic bag usage and plastic bag litter.
Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency submitted a letter to the San Jose City Council rebutting the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) false claims about Ireland’s bag fee. In this letter, Ronan Mulhall of the Waste Policy division confirms that plastic bag litter dropped by 93 percent and plastic bag use decreased by approximately 90 percent in the year following the Plastic Bag Levy. Ireland later increased their fee to approximately 33 cents (US). The Irish EPA reports that these dramatically lower levels of plastic bag use and litter are being maintained.
Myth: Fees on single use bags will negatively impact low income people.
Fact: No one has to pay the fee.
A single-use bag fee is only charged if you do not bring your own bag. Lower income communities (some of the most blighted by plastic bag litter) are already paying for plastic bags through city taxes and increased food and retail prices. Every bag fee policy currently under consideration at the local and state level would either subsidize reusable bags for low-income residents or exempt low-income residents from paying the fees.
Myth: Single-use bag bans or fees are bad policy in this time of economic crisis.
Fact: Reducing the use of single-use plastic and paper bags will save us all money.
Retailers currently embed 2 to 5 cents per plastic bag and 5 to 23 cents per paper bag in the price of goods— adding $30 or more per person annually in hidden costs. In contrast, when consumers use reusable bags, retailers save money and can lower prices. Many grocers offer a 5-cent rebate for bringing your own bag, which can add up to about $60 in savings per year for an average family.
Bags clog storm drains and recycling equipment, costing cities millions, and bag litter lowers property values and degrades recreational areas. In addition to the out-of-pocket cost passed on from the retailer to consumers, California taxpayers spend approximately $25 million every year to collect and landfill plastic bags.
San Jose City staff estimates that it costs at least $3 million annually to clean plastic bags from creeks and clogged storm drains.7 Single-use bag production depletes resources and contributes to carbon emissions and global warming. We consume approximately 14 million trees8 and 12 million barrels of oil9 to produce the billions of plastic and paper bags we throw away in the United States every year.
Myth: Plastic bag litter isn’t really a problem for the environment.
Fact: 1.37 million plastic bags were removed from coastal areas worldwide in one day last year.
Plastic trash entangles, suffocates, and poisons at least 267 animal species worldwide.10 According to the California Coastal Commission, up to 80 percent of all marine debris is plastic, which never biodegrades.11 Plastic bags were the second largest item of litter picked up by volunteers during the Ocean Conservancy’s 2008
International Coastal Cleanup Day.12 It is estimated that one million plastic bags pollute the Bay every year. Scientists recently measured 334,271 pieces of plastic per square mile in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.13
Myth: Education about responsible use and disposal of plastic bags will reduce litter.
Fact: Unfortunately, public education hasn’t worked, despite massive public investment.
Huge amounts of money have been spent on public education about litter. One example is CalTrans’ “Don’t Trash California” campaign. Yet, we still see our highways coated in bags, cups, and cigarette butts. A fee on single use bags provides an incentive to consumers to change their behavior and switch to reusable bags.