In an effort to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags, the Baton Rouge Progressive Network has started a campaign to encourage shoppers to switch to reusable bags.

David Brown, co-chairman of the network’s public policy committee, said the organization is working with LSU’s Environmental Conservation Organization and EcoPods to get the word out.

The network and its members also are contacting grocery stores and convenience stores in East Baton Rouge Parish to let them know there is no ordinance requiring them to place alcohol purchases in a bag.

“Many local grocery, convenience and liquor store clerks routinely — and incorrectly — tell customers they are required to have a bag for purchases of alcoholic beverages,” a news release from the network says.

“As a first step in the bag-awareness campaign, this organizational partnership obtained an opinion letter from the East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney’s office stating unambiguously no such ordinance exists.”

The network has sent out about 20 letters so far to the larger chain grocery stores and convenience stores and has asked its members to talk to the stores they frequent, Brown said.

Although there’s no data to indicate how much of the waste that goes into the parish’s North Landfill is plastic bags, they are a problem.

“They are a nuisance. They are so light and flyaway,” said Krystal Perkins, solid waste manager for the landfill. “If the wind blows, they fly all over and litter.”

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That means staff have to spend time picking up the errant bags. The pollution posed by plastic bags on land and in the ocean has prompted some countries and some cities in the U.S. to either ban or place a tax on the use of plastic shopping bags.

“It’s apparently the most ubiquitous human product on the globe,” Brown said.

In 2009, the United Nations Environment Programme released a report calling for a worldwide ban on thin-film plastic bags.

“Some of the litter, like thin-film single-use plastic bags, which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere,” Achim Steiner, U.N. Under-Secretary-General and U.N. Environment Programme executive director, said in a news release.

Washington, D.C., tries to discourage use of the bags with a 5-cent-per-bag fee, and Brownsville, Texas, earlier this year started placing a $1 fee on nonreusable plastic bags. San Francisco banned plastic bags in 2007.

Brown said he would like to see some type of restriction in Baton Rouge eventually.

“I would much rather see a tax on the bags because I think that’s a lot more effective than a ban,” Brown said.