At Riverwards produce market in Fishtown, owner Vincent Finazzo is getting rid of single-use plastic bags. On Monday, he will celebrate Earth Day, which is also the store’s second anniversary, by giving away 100 reusable produce bags with samples from local companies, such as snack-size packs of tahini.
On Wednesday, Weavers Way Co-op locations will launch “Weigh it Wednesday,” a pilot program offering a 10 percent discount on bulk items for shoppers who bring their own containers. Weavers Way will soon roll out reusable takeout containers that customers can put a deposit on and bring back for refills, a spokeswoman said. The organization also plans to replace the foam trays used in meat packaging, and will soon sell reusable bulk bags made from recycled plastic to replace single-use bags.
And there’s a little Earth Day every day in local grocery aisles, as co-ops, neighborhood shops, and even major chains move toward ways to reduce plastic.
Trader Joe’s uses compostable produce bags and paper grocery bags, and gives raffle tickets for gift cards to customers who bring their own bags. The company has replaced Styrofoam trays in the produce section with biodegradable packaging, and in December announced plans to reduce plastic elsewhere in the store.
Walmart is seeking to convert its private brand packaging to recycleable, reusable or compostable materials by 2025, the company announced this year.
Some grocers, including Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Market, offer credits of a few cents for customers who bring bags. Many large supermarkets, including Acme, Giant, and ShopRite, have recycling bins where customers can dispose of plastic bags for recycling.
At Reading Terminal Market, online orders are packaged in reusable bags provided by online delivery service Mercato, which has reduced the use of plastic bags by individual vendors. And at the market’s Customer Hub, a spokesman said, the best-selling item is a reusable tote.
At Riverwards, the latest changes are one step in what Finazzo said was a long-term project to eliminate plastic. He is also replacing the plastic used for such items as salads with biodegradable containers, and he’s putting a bag exchange in the store where people can take and leave reusable totes, similar to the bag library at Weavers Way in Ambler.
After the store’s remaining stock of plastic bags is gone, Riverwards customers who want plastic produce bags can buy biodegradable bags for 15 cents each. Finazzo said he’ll donate proceeds to the Riverfront North Partnership, a nonprofit that maintains trails and parks along the Delaware River.
“I’m thinking of the bags as a gateway for people to think about where else they can make small changes," he said.
A growing number of environment-conscious retailers say using biodegradable plastic isn’t enough: unless the material is thrown away in a dedicated facility, it ends up in a landfill, where it breaks down no faster than other garbage. That’s why Finazzo is talking to local composting companies he works with, as well as with his suppliers, about designing a better way to dispose of trash.
“The point is to be able to follow the packaging every step of the way and make sure it’s disposed of in the best way," he said.