Winn-Dixie Backs Effort to Stop Plastic Bags, the Store Needs Help
By Charles D. Sherman
The good people of Key Biscayne are making an effort to help the island’s Winn-Dixie and its manager Jose Llanes save the world from plastic bags.
More and more shoppers are showing up at the store and packing their groceries in reusable bags, according to Llanes. He said he has support from the grocery chain’s top executives, replacing plastic bags in recent weeks with less pollution-prone paper sacks. But his real goal is to convert all shoppers into environmentally-conscious consumers.
Key Biscayne's Village Recycling Service says among the items not accepted are plastic wrap, plastic bags and Styrofoam products. The Clean Air Council states that recycling one ton of plastic bags costs $4,000, while the recycled product can be sold for only $32. In addition 77 percent of paper bags are made from recycled fiber.
An avid fisherman, Llanes says he became disturbed at the amount of plastic he finds in the ocean and on beaches.
There is an economic reason, too. “The store spends $4,000 to $5,000 a month on these plastic bags,” he said.
Llanes credits an increasing number of customers who have asked for an alternative to plastic. Winn-Dixie sells reusable bags for $2 with $1 of the sale going to charity.
Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey is keenly aware of the issue and has promised to work with Winn-Dixie to cut the amount of plastic flowing through the store into landfills, into storm drains, and, finally, into the sea.
Key Biscayne has good company. New York state lawmakers last month banned single-use plastic bags. St. Petersburg will ban the sale of plastic straws from 2020. The European Union has banned single-use plastic bags unless they are biodegradable.
The 56-year-old Llanes has worked for Winn-Dixie for 25 years. While he is encouraged by seeing shoppers using their own bags, he says more education is needed. Awareness among maids who do a significant amount of shopping for Key homeowners needs to be raised, he said.
Llanes is considering adding loyalty-point bonuses for customers who use their own bags. He hopes to start a program at the island’s school to teach students ways to safeguard the the environment.