Berkeley Farmers’ Markets Ban Plastic Bags, More

Posted by — November 28, 2008 7:55 pm

Bag Monsters are no longer welcome at Berkeley Farmers’ Markets which are the first in the Bay Area to ban plastic bags in favor of reusable bags beginning in 2009 – transition begins with subsidized compostable bags.

“While we consider the compostable bags to be better than plastic, they still require natural resources and energy to produce.” It’s a big step in the right direction explains Ecology Center Market Manager Ben Feldman, “but they’re ultimately not the way to go.”

The ban includes plastic bags, packaging for prepared foods, utensils, and to-go ware, says Ecology Center Market Manager Ben Feldman.

“The overall goal is zero waste,” says Feldman. “This initial step is really a step in eventually preventing us from putting anything in the landfill.”

Vendors will be asked to phase out plastic in favor of compostable bio-bags.

Most “bio-bags” don’t compost in at-home compost piles or when littered – they require an industrial strength composting facility, like the one in Berkeley, which can break down compostable bags. Reusable bags remain the best choice to help farmers and grocers cut costs from handing out free plastic bags or expensive compostable bags – reusable bags also have lower environmental costs than single-use bags.

The Berkeley Farmers’ Markets received a grant from Alameda County Waste Management ( that will allow the purchase of over 120,000 compostable bags to sell to vendors. The markets will subsidize the cost of the bags to provide an incentive and to ease the transition to the compostable bags, which run about fourteen cents per bag compared to two cents for plastic bags. The subsidized compostable bags will be priced to what the farmers pay now for plastics.

Feldman has a vision in mind: “Ideally, if we could move up the chain and not be producing the bio-bag material at all, and the compostable stuff stays on the farm, and our prepared food vendors are using reusable plates, we won’t be putting anything in the landfill,” says Feldman. “Once we get that far I’ll consider us a zero waste zone.”

Will farmer’s markets in New York City, LA and Seattle move past single-use plastics too?

Excerpts written by Mary Vance of the Ecology Center.

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