Amanda Wiese was flying over the Yukon River several years ago, en route from Bethel to Emmonak, when she noticed white dots all over the landscape below, everywhere her eyes could see, she said.
“The landscape was marshy, with low bushes, flat,” she said, and all those white dots she saw were plastic bags that had been blown away. “There were so many,” she recalled.
Such memories prompted the mother of two sons, and wife of city councilman James Wiese to think about starting a community bag project.
So on Aug. 10 Wiese started the Cordova Reusable Bag Drive project on Facebook, with the goal of collecting 500 reusable grocery bags, and distributing them to Alaska Commercial Company and the Front Door Store, Cordova’s two main grocers. There the bags would be available for folks to use to carry their purchases home in, and then either keep, or bring them back to the stores to be used again.
Wiese said that if the project takes off, she would expand the idea to other stores.
“The idea is if you need one, take one, and if you have one, or extras, drop them off for others to use, if they forget their reusable bags when they’re grocery shopping,” she said. “The idea is only going to work if people participate both ways.”
Folks at the Copper River Watershed Project offered to be a drop-off point for the initial 500-bag collection goal.
The project is seeking reusable bags made from cloth, canvas, or some other sturdy material intended for repeated use.
Eventually, Wiese would like to see Cordova go completely plastic bag free.
Cordova, Hooper Bay and Bethel are the only three communities in Alaska to ban the use of plastic bags. The Cordova City Council banned plastic bags and polystyrene foam food containers Oct. 1 of last year.
Many of Cordova’s merchants have switched to paper bags, but several still offer customers biodegradable plastic bags.
Five days into the bag drive, people were already dropping off their surplus reusable bags at CRWSP.
“I’m happy to see so many people come onboard to help,” Wiese said. “It’s definitely going to take community participation to get this rolling. I know the new plastic bags are expensive; this potentially will save the stores money if people get in the habit of using reusable bags. While I can’t speak for the stores, I’m hoping it will keep costs down, which could be passed on to the customers.”
Anyone wishing to help with the drive can contact Wiese through the project’s Facebook page under Cordova Reusable Bag Drive: