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Iowa grocers roll out plastic bag recycling initiative

Thursday, January 14, 2010

DES MOINES -- Iowans will see something new when they enter the grocery store that is intended to help change consumer habits and create awareness for plastic bag recycling.

Starting January 11, customers entering Iowa grocery stores will get their first look at Build with Bags, a program led by Iowa grocers to encourage the recycling of plastic bags. The program is being rolled out in participating stores, including all Dahl's Foods, Fareway Stores and Hy-Vee locations statewide, with a two-week promotion lasting until January 24.

Program-branded plastic bags will be used to help highlight the promotion as well as Build with Bags posters that will be placed in the entry ways of stores near plastic bag recycling barrels.

"We're excited to see the Build with Bags program coming to fruition," said Jerry Fleagle, president of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association. "Over the last several months, we have been working very diligently with key members of the grocery industry to bring this program into the forefront for Iowans. It's something that we feel can have an extremely positive impact in our state."

Build with Bags is a cooperative of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, Keep Iowa Beautiful, Metro Waste Authority in Des Moines, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and The Des Moines Register. It has four main goals: (1) Double the amount of plastic bags recycled over a 24-month period; (2) Reduce consumption of plastic bags; (3) Increase use of reusable bags; and (4) Encourage purchases of furniture and equipment made from recycled plastic through a grant program for parks and schools.

The program was originally announced last August at the 2009 Iowa State Fair. Since its introduction, program sponsors and participates have been organizing and implementing all the key elements of Build with Bags that extend beyond the in-store promotions.

"There are other parts to the program than just what we're going to do in stores," Fleagle said. "This roll out is intended to shed a total spotlight on the Build with Bags program. But we're also striving to give Iowans a recognizable name and philosophy that will bring long-term success to the program and the recycling of plastic bags."

Other components of the Build with Bags program that Iowa stands to benefit from are its grant program and school recycling challenge. The grant program was developed to support Build with Bags' primary goal of increasing plastic bag recycling. It was initiated to support "closing the plastic bag loop" by demonstrating how recycled plastic bags can be re-used in the manufacturing of outdoor furniture and equipment.

The Build with Bags School Recycling Challenge was performed this past October within the Greater Des Moines area as a prototype for the rest of the state. The Iowa Grocery Industry Association partnered with Metro Waste Authority to help educate students from 40 elementary schools on the importance of recycling and environmental stewardship. Participating schools recycled nearly 7,000 pounds of plastic bags -- the equivalent to 422,000 bags -- during the five-week challenge.

"Build with Bags can be a viable option that people all around the country are looking for," Fleagle said. "The grant program gives communities a strong incentive to recycle plastic bags and the school recycling challenge is great evidence of what can be accomplished with the proper level of support and participation."

For more information on Build with Bags or its grant program opportunities, please visit www.itseasytorecycle.org or www.iowagrocers.com.

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