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Environment: App helps tame plastic bag monsters

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A plastic grocery bag tumbled between parked cars outside Waccamaw Intermediate School on a blustery Tuesday afternoon. A program launched this week at the school and at Waccamaw Elementary aims to cut down on the number of those bags.

Max Congdon, 10, also made his way between the cars, dressed from head to about his waist in a coat of billowing plastic bags. He was one of two “bag monsters” who helped launch the initiative. “You owe me for this,” Max told his mom, Karyn Congdon, as she dressed him for the occasion.

Condon, a PTO officer, and other members went door to door to the cars waiting for kids to get out of school to ask parents to download a smartphone app that will promote the use of reusable shopping bags. It works like this:

When you go into one of the eight participating stores in the Pawleys Island and Murrells Inlet area, you can scan a code at the register as you load your purchases into reusable bags. The app estimates how many plastic bags you have saved and it makes a contribution to either Waccamaw Elementary or Waccamaw Intermediate.

“The purpose is to close the loop,” said Donna Anderson, a Waccamaw parent who works for MyEco, a maker of reusable bags. Many people already have reusable bags, but they forget to take them to the store, she said. The app and the donations are a way to change habits.

The money that goes to the school will come from a $3,000 grant from the Bunnelle Foundation. “In order to change behavior, you want to be incentivized,” Anderson said. “You want to see that you’re making a difference.”

Volunteers helped waiting parents download the app this week.

Donna Pasquarelli of Murrells Inlet seemed an ideal candidate. She already has reusable bags and she actually uses them, she told Anderson as the app downloaded on her iPhone. “This will be perfect for you,” Anderson said.

But Pasquarelli is a Food Lion shopper. Anderson said the chain turned down a request to participate. Bi-Lo at Litchfield and Murrells Inlet are taking part. “I can’t say enough about Bi-Lo,” she said.

Pasquarelli said she may drop in at Bi-Lo.

Anderson is working on Fresh Market. Walgreens and CVS at Pawleys Island are also participating. So are Harbor Specialties, Surf the Earth, Get Carried Away and Pawleys Island Supplies. “They wanted to help the schools,” she said.

Green initiatives are a regular part of the activities at Waccamaw Intermediate, so the project was a good fit, Congdon said. Other activities over the next month will include a plastic bag drive with students collecting unused bags at home. There will be a competition between the schools to collect the most bags. Once the results are tallied, the bags will be tied together and measured.

The app is available to anyone through Apple iTunes or Google Play. Search for “My Eco Reuse.” Users log in with their e-mail address and then select the school to which they want to donate.

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