Modbury, England, Goes Plastic Bag-Free Shopkeepers in one small town in England have stopped using plastic bags. Modbury, population 1,500, has become what some call the first plastic bag-free town in Europe.
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Modbury, England, Goes Plastic Bag-Free

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Modbury, England, Goes Plastic Bag-Free

Modbury, England, Goes Plastic Bag-Free

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It was one of the most intriguing scenes on the movie "American Beauty," a plastic bag floating artfully in the wind. But most plastic bags you see littering the streets are not nearly as artful. One British documentary maker followed a bag to the sea and found tons of others just like it, choking turtles and dolphins.

She returned home to tiny Modbury, England and convinced its 1,500 residents to ditch the plastic bags. And now, Modbury builds itself as the first plastic bag-free town in all of Europe.

With me is Adam Searle of Mackgills Delicatessen in Modbury. Welcome to the program.

Mr. ADAM SEARLE (Mackgills Delicatessen, Modbury): Hello.

BRAND: Now why would shopkeepers, all 43 of you, receptive to the idea of no more shopping bags?

Mr. SEARLE: It was - Rebecca Hoskins is a freelance camerawoman, and she'd made this terrific film in Hawaii. Hawaii acts like a basin and draws a lot of pollution or the plastic and (unintelligible) in the sea to it. She got that for making this film.

She showed me it, and it's startling. The imagery on it is incredible - dolphins chasing plastic bags, thinking they're jellyfish, to eat them. A lot of albatrosses which had died and decomposed and their insides full of plastic, cigarette lighters, toys and things like that.

I saw this film, and it really had a big impact on me. Then a few nights later, we were talking, and I just said I always been a complete hypocrite, issuing plastic bags and feeling this way. So the next day, we decided to show Rebecca's film to the entire town - all the traders. So we invited then to the local gallery. We meanwhile got in contact with several alternative producers of plastic bags, like the cornstarch bags, (unintelligible) cloth bags. And then we approached the traders as to what we're planning to do, become the first town that didn't issue plastic bags.

BRAND: So how are you, Simon the Butcher, and everyone else, how are you bagging your products?

Mr. SEARLE: Me and Simon the Butcher, we're using cornstarch bags, which are a hundred percent biodegradable. If you fill them with potato peelings, onion peelings, (unintelligible) on your compost heap, they'll completely breakdown in a couple of weeks. What we wanted to do is reduce the amounts of bags we were giving out, whether they were cornstarch or paper.

So what we decided to do for carry-a-bags, we actually made a charge of five pence for every carry-a-bag.

BRAND: (unintelligible) plastic bag.

Mr. SEARLE: Not the plastic, the cornstarch ones or the paper ones. Whereas I was issuing 150 plastic bags a day. Now I'm selling, probably at most, five cornstarch bags at five pence a day.

BRAND: Well, a lot of people used plastic bags for their own garbage at home, or to, you know, pick up their dog's droppings, things like that. What are people going to use now?

Mr. SEARLE: That's one of the things that I've always thought is absolutely insane. Dog's droppings, obviously, are completely biodegradable. We put them in a plastic bag, and so essentially mummify them so they last forever. We haven't banned plastic bags. If somebody comes in with a plastic carry-a-bag, well, great, because it's reusing.

We have got bins set up where we're actually having kind of an amnesty bin where people can put their plastic bags into the amnesty bin. And we've got a guy who comes down and collects them every so often, and he's got (unintelligible) process where it changes the structure, and these are actually being made into a different kind of plastic. And these are being made into plastic chairs. And these are exhibited in the local gallery.

BRAND: Talk about reusing. That's just fantastic. Adam Searle of Mackgills Delicatessen in Modbury, England. Thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. SEARLE: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: You can reuse us, too. We're back in just a moment.

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