Sunday, June 14, 2009

Biobags-an alternative not a solution

I returned to the Ferry Plaza this week after being absent from the scene for a couple of months. In the meantime, the plastic bag issues and regulations have been fully enacted. That is, vendor distribution of plastics is against the market rules and customers are encouraged to either come up with their own packaging solutions or Biobags are offered at a small price by vendors when customers find themselves unprepared and bag-less with am armload of fruits and veggies.

My observations of the operation are mostly positive. I did not sell off one Biobag all day, I sent away many jam and dried chile purchases straight into ladies purses or men's backpacks, watched the regulars shuttle their bulk purchases around in our little card board jam boxes from the scale to their own bags, baskets and bins. This is the ideal system. People are thinking ahead and coming up with creative alternative solutions to single use waste. I am proud to see this and cannot wait for the behavior to filter into new market areas and consumer behaviors as a whole. Once you adjust your perspective, it is hard to look back.

As for the Biobags themselves, they are there if you need something that suits the rules of the market. I watched the flimsy handles on one bag hanging off one customer's arms, wondering how long they would hold out while this person worked to try and get everything into the single bag for efficiency. Later, I watched those same flimsy handles give out on a poor lady trying to shove in one of our giant red onions. Luckily, I had a large paper bag on hand to offer after her small mishap. Our un-named neighbors at market are quite dissatisfied with the new regulations as they are purveyors of micro-green type produce. Biobags are just not as friendly to this sort of product, but they will move it from point A to point B. They do not seem as durable nor do they seem to offer the storage capabilities of good old un-environmentally friendly plastics, but I don't think that is what to expect from them. Their purpose is as a single use tool (or as long as you are able to make one last) for transport when all other pre-planning has failed. If you really wanted strong transport for your heavy produce at market, hopefully you thought to bring your cloth bags, woven baskets, metal cart with wheels, re-useable plastic from the commercial grocery waste stream, etc...

Biobags are ideal for light products that don't need specialized storage conditions. I have not done any extensive research on this topic, but am speaking from common sense, observation thus far, a few personal experiences and feedback from others. This bag is meant to break down, that is both a pro and a con and must be factored in to it's use. If it is not the solution for you, simply bring your own plastics or whatever else you want to cart your goods around within. I use them only when they are slipped into my personal inventory by someone who is relying on them for packaging, say like the cherries I brought yesterday which were quickly removed, washed and transferred to a bowl up on arriving home, empty Biobag looming for some re-use already. Let's save all the Biobags for incidental and last minute tourist purchases and bring our own instead!

On a final note, a great pleasure to see all the familiar faces that wander about the Ferry Plaza Market in the city on Saturday mornings. Customers, farmer's and vendors alike, this is a weekly community scene of great people, food, ideas, etc...a pleasure to be a part of it. If you have not been, come and visit us there. It gets a bit crowded, but it is only because there is so much good stuff to see, eat, smell....and buy. When spending at market there is no doubt your money is going to support the best small business out there, your local food production system.


  1. I found your blog simply by hitting "Next Blog" a few times. As a Wisconsinite, this concept of not being allowed to distribute plastic bags is completely foreign, yet wonderful to me. Very cool!

  2. Well I hope you are able to be a local innovator and start spreading the word on a new perspective! Let me know if I can help, it is such a satisfying change.