FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS  5) -- A non-profit in Flagstaff is working to help the environment by cutting down on plastic waste. They've launched a program that's a unique take on the reusable plastic bag. Instead of everyone having their own, the community is asked to return the bags after using them.

"It became really clear that people do not need another reusable bag. What we needed was a way to make a reusable bag truly reusable and to be circulated repeatedly through the community," said Emily Melhorn, Programs Manager for the non-profit Azulita Project.

They even plan to keep the bags sanitized to avoid the spread of COVID-19 by quarantining bags for three days and then machine washing them. The Azulita Project tried out the community reusable bag program in a few locations like a farmer market, but there was an issue.

Reducing plastic waste in the community

"People would receive a reusable bag from us, but they wouldn't necessarily make the connection that they should then return the bag to be reused and recirculated in the community," Melhorn said.

So they just got a grant to create a new design on the bag educating people on how it works. The design is still in the works. Melhorn said one reusable bag has a life cycle of 750 single-use plastic bags, so they will save around a million single-use plastic bags initially from this program.

"Getting rid of and reducing the use of single use plastic bags is a huge issue, and would do a lot for the health of our environment," Melhorn said.

"It goes to a landfill, where it takes over 500 years for it to..., and it's not even decomposed; it sort of photodegrades. It just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces that release toxins into our soils into our waterways in our oceans."


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