Thunder Bay

Take a bag, leave a bag: Thunder Bay, Ont., schools partner to reduce plastic use

Students at two Catholic schools in Thunder Bay collaborated on a "take a bag, leave a bag" initiative to reduce the use of plastic bags in the northwestern Ontario city.

Students collected cloth bags, built wooden boxes so bags can be freely available at grocery stores

Students from both St. Martin and Pope John Paul II schools in Thunder Bay, Ont., pose for a picture after completing their 'take a bag, leave a bag' project. ( Alexandra Korolenko/Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board )

Students at two Catholic schools in Thunder Bay collaborated on a "take a bag, leave a bag" initiative to reduce the use of plastic bags in the northwestern Ontario city.

Children in kindergarten to Grade 6 at St. Martin elementary school collected 1,293 reusable grocery bags, made mainly from cloth and canvas.

Then, students in Grades 7 and 8 in the Pathways program, and those in design and technology classes at Pope John Paul II, built wooden storage boxes for the bags and placed them in several grocery stores in the city.

Shoppers can just 'grab a bag'

The boxes "look a little bit rustic, we went for something that almost looks reclaimed," said Chris Pedri, who is the design and technology teacher.

The initiative gives shoppers an alternative to using plastic bags by making it easier for people to grab a free reusable bag, he said.

"A lot of people usually accumulate them [cloth bags], sometimes they want to get rid of them, sometimes they're always looking for them, even if they have them they don't have them handy," he said.

"So having this dispensary at the grocery stores will give people an opportunity to drop them off if they have excess or if they happen to forget one they can just grab one from the boxes we built."

Boxes placed at 5 stores

Take a bag, leave a bag. Two schools in Thunder Bay worked together to make it easier for people to use cloth or canvas bags when they're grocery shopping. One school collected the bags. The other school built special boxes for them. Now they've been placed in several supermarkets around the city. 6:18

Pedri hopes the program becomes "contagious, in the sense that people know they're going to the grocery store and they're going to remember to bring what they need and if they have extras, they'll know these boxes are there."

Another alternative he suggested is that it could be a yearly activity for schools to collect the bags in order to replenish the supply.

The boxes and bags have been placed at five grocery stores, including both No Frills and Renco locations, as well as at Westfort Foods.

The program was supported by EcoSuperior and and a group of volunteers, the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board noted in a written release.