Plastic Pollution
March 04 2014

Using Diverted Waste to Prevent New Waste in Grand Haven, MI

by Sarah Damron

Many environmental victories are hard-fought.  Other times, they happen somewhat by chance, and it just takes one person's awareness and action to see the opportunity and make it happen.

In November 2013, Surfrider Foundation Lake Michigan Chapter Treasurer, Will Beaton, attended a Chamber of Commerce business networking meeting.  At that meeting, a woman from Steelcase, an international office furniture company with headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said she had these nice shopping bags branded for Steelcase's 100th anniversary party that they didn't end up using. She said that Steelcase had 20,000 bags that were sitting in their warehouse and they were free to anyone who could use them.

Will saw this as an excellent opportunity to advance the Rise Above Plastics mission!  These bags could be diverted from the waste stream and given out to the public free of charge in lieu of taking a single-use plastic bag from retail establishments.

He picked up 1,000 bags in November and passed them out to businesses in downtown Grand Haven, MI.  The businesses gave a bag or two to each customer during the Thanksgiving holidays.  The idea caught wind, and when Will returned from surfing in Costa Rica in December he had messages that the businesses needed more bags.  In January, he picked up another 1,000 bags and distributed those as well.  In anticipation of additional demand, Will went ahead and asked Steelcase to save the remaining 18,000 bags!   Everyone loves the bags and the City of Grand Haven has become a little more green.

Photo: Will Beaton in his Surfrider shirt at Steelcase picking up the reusable bags