EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Eau Claire City Council approved the formation a committee to come up with ways to reduce the use of plastic and paper bags at local grocery stores.
Council members voted to form the Sustainable Solution Committee Tuesday afternoon. They say people in Eau Claire use an estimated 21,000,000 plastic shopping bags annually. The committee will work on ways to convince shoppers to use their own reusable bags. It will have 14 members, including two city council members, and one person from the chamber of commerce.
Festival, Gordy's and Mega all give discounts for bringing in re-usable bags.
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – Paper or Plastic? It's a question that could be changing at grocery stores in Eau Claire.
Eau Claire residents use an estimated 21 million plastic shopping bags annually.
And right now two city council members are looking for ways to get people to shop with reusable bags, reducing waste and keeping more bags out of landfills.
“Whether you see them floating down the river or whether you see animals getting caught with it, they're around and they're an eyesore,” said City Council Member Jackie Pavelski.
Along with City Council Member Andrew Werthmann, Pavelski helped form an exploratory group to research the issue.
Now the members are asking the city for approval to launch a committee that would come up with solutions to the paper and plastic problem.
“Recognizing that this is a concern and an issue for our environment,” Pavelski said.
The committee would be made up of business leaders, environmental experts, citizens and a city council member.
While some cities impose fees on the grocery bags or have banned them altogether, Pavelski said the committee doesn't have any set agenda.
“My gut feeling is that we'll come up with something that's workable for this community, and sometimes it requires a phasing process,” Pavelski said.
Mega Foods is already encouraging shoppers to put their groceries in reusable bags, even selling them at stores.
“Any bag that someone would want to bring in we'll gladly give you a 5 cent refund for that bag,” said Paul Shaurette, the store manager at the Mega Foods East location in Eau Claire.
The store also collects plastic bags to be recycled.
“We're glad to help with anything we can with any type of recycling or going green,” Shaurette said.
He said about half of Mega East shoppers take care of bags themselves.
Liz Rehrauer of Eau Claire said she’s been shopping with canvas bags for two years.
“I just don't like to build up all those plastic bags. There is way too much waste in the plastic,” Rehrauer said as she was checking out at Mega East.
The city council will vote on approving the committee Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Festival Foods and Gordy’s County Market also gives similar discounts for bringing in bags and has bins for recycling.