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Park Slope Food Co-op Won't Ban Flimsy Plastic Bags, but Will Recycle Them

 Members of the Park Slope Food Co-op voted down a proposal to phase out the use of plastic bags for produce and bulk food items.
Members of the Park Slope Food Co-op voted down a proposal to phase out the use of plastic bags for produce and bulk food items.
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PARK SLOPE — A four-year debate over whether to ban all plastic bags from the Park Slope Food Co-op ended this week with members voting to keep the controversial sacks.

Members of the famed cooperative grocery voted Tuesday to keep the thin plastic roll bags that typically hold produce and bulk items, shooting down an attempt by the Co-op's Environmental Committee to eliminate them.

There was no vote count taken, but an "overwhelmingly majority" of members at a "very well-attended" meeting at the John Jay Educational Campus on Seventh Avenue raised their hands in favor of keeping the bags, Co-op general coordinator Ann Herpel told DNAinfo New York.

The Co-op got rid of plastic shopping bags — the type that will soon cost New Yorkers 5 cents each — back in 2007, and in 2012 members started discussing whether to rid the store of the thin plastic roll bags as well, Herpel said.

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In 2013 the Co-op attempted to vote on the issue, but the meeting venue couldn't hold all the people who turned out to weigh in on the bag ban. In February 2014, members voted down a proposal to charge money for the roll bags, Herpel said. This week's vote centered once again on eliminating the bags altogether.

Managers at the store opposed the bag ban for several reasons, Herpel said. The bags help maintain hygiene — for example, they stop leaky meat containers from polluting the checkout conveyor belt — and they can prevent "cross contamination" of gluten-free or strictly kosher items, Herpel said.

Managers also worried that eliminating the thin plastic roll bags could have the unintended consequence of leading to more plastic use, Herpel said, because shoppers might opt for pre-packaged products wrapped in even more plastic if the bags disappear altogether.

She noted that much of the Co-op's inventory is in bulk form, so the store relies heavily on the thin bags. She said the bags provide "minimal" plastic packaging for thousands of pounds of food each week.

“People should really consider their plastic bag use,” Herpel said. “Profligate use was not what we want, but I think it would not have been a wise move to get rid of them entirely.”

Though the thin plastic roll bags can't be recycled in city-collected recycling bins, they can be recycled at the Co-op starting June 8. The grocery will collect the bags under a partnership with the recycling company Terra Cycle, which specializes in "hard-to-recycle waste" including toothpaste tubes, baby food pouches and energy bar wrappers.

A representative for the Park Slope Food Co-op Environmental Committee could not be reached immediately for comment.

The Co-op, founded in 1973, has about 16,000 members. All of them work a certain number of hours per month at the store in exchange for the right to shop there. The grocery carries reduced price products, many of which are organic and locally sourced.

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