Santa Feans can now drop by the mayor’s office to get for ready Feb. 27, when the disposable, single-use plastic grocery bag may no longer reign as the unofficial Santa Fe wildflower – and will at least no longer be legal in the City Different.
Mayor David Coss’ space at City Hall is being used to store 10,000 reusable shopping bags ready to replace those that often litter the city’s streets, parks and fields and often end up as unwanted decorations on cacti and other plants.
Residents can pick up the free reusable bags at the mayor’s office at 200 Lincoln Ave. between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, city spokeswoman Jodi McGinnis Porter said Friday. The office is closed between noon and 1 p.m.
In August, the City Council approved an ordinance banning stores from distributing thin, single-use plastic bags to their customers but delayed implementation until next month.
In passing the measure, Santa Fe joined cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., at the vanguard of the disposable bag reduction movement. The ban was opposed by the New Mexico Grocers Association, among others.
The new reusable carriers are made of a type of fabric resembling what’s used in the bags now sold at grocery stores for about 99 cents, Porter said. After the plastic bags are banned, shoppers can also purchase paper bags for 10 cents, she added.
City staff members will also hand out the free reusable bags at events such as the summertime Bandstand series on the Plaza and at Santa Fe Fiesta celebrations, Porter said. The city’s Environmental Services Division and Keep Santa Fe Beautiful will also help distribute the new bags.
The small paper bags used to hold nails bought at a hardware store will still be allowed without a fee, as will produce bags. Restaurants, businesses that sell take-out food and non-profits can also continue offering plastic bags to their customers, as can dry cleaners.
Customers on government assistance, such as food stamps, will not be subject to the 10-cent paper bag charge.
The change was jump-started by students at Wood Gormley Elementary School, Porter said.
In their presentation to the council, the students created a plastic “Bag Monster” consumed by the familiar plastic grocery carriers.
“It was hilarious,” Porter said. “They were concerned about the environment.”
“The plastic bag has been known and teased as the New Mexico state flower, because you see it in cactus and it never leaves,” she continued. “The kids and the whole community are really behind this issue.” Several Santa Fe area grocery stores already offer rebates for customers who voluntarily use recyclable bags.