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Environment friendly--Reuseable bag project aims at reducing litter

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More than one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year, but efforts, including a new program in North Dakota, are underway to prevent these bags from becoming litter.

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The Reuseable Bag Campaign is a collaborative effort of private businesses and government agencies to buy and distribute reusable shopping bags to shoppers at retail stores across the state.

The pilot kick-off event is scheduled for this afternoon (Wednesday) at 3 p.m. at the Osgood Hornbacher's store, from 3 to 9 p.m., when bags will be distributed.

So if you want to be a part of this environmental-friendly event - be there and pick one up. Hopefully it will become your constant grocery shopping companion.

"You can use cloth, canvas or string bags over and over again," said Agricultural Commissioner Roger Johnson, who is promoting the cause. "When they do wear out, you can throw them away with no environmental consequences."

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture is the lead sponsor of the project, joined by the Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency of the North Dakota Department of Commerce, who are funding the giveaway in part through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. consumers use more than 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps each year.

"These plastic bags don't go away," Johnson said. "Instead, they break down into smaller and smaller toxic bits, polluting the soil and water and eventually making their way into the food chain."

Consequently, each reusable bag can replace hundreds, and possibly thousands, of plastic bags over its lifetime.

Announcement of the campaign was made to coincide with Earth Day in April, with the actual distribution scheduled to start now.

The Osgood Hornbacher's is located at 4151 45th Ave. S. One bag will be given away to each individual, with Ag Commissioner Johnson himself present to begin the campaign with a news conference.

Also participating will be representatives of Gate City Bank, Cass County Electric Cooperative and Hornbacher's Foods, all local sponsors, as well as officials from the North Dakota Office of Renewable Energy.

The hope is that consumers will get in the habit of carrying the bag in their car. Measuring 12 inches across, they will be extremely functional for lighter grocery shopping trips.

The goal of officials involved is to extend the program to at least a half dozen other towns or cities yet this campaign, and then apply for other grant monies next year to help continue the project.

So if you're in the Osgood neighborhood this afternoon, stop out and pick up a bag. It's a great cause for anyone concerned about the environment.

khuber@westfargopioneer.com

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