With Earth Day just days away (April 22), the Pleasanton Farmers' Market will soon roll out a new initiative to eliminate the usage of plastic.
Held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. year-round, the Farmer's Market is always well attended by residents looking to buy local produce and purchase meals. It's run by Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association, a nonprofit that also operates the Livermore Farmers' Market and more than 60 total markets in the Bay Area.
Recently, PCFMA received a grant from Stop Waste, a nonprofit agency operated by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board.
"We got a grant from Stop Waste in eight of our Alameda County markets to implement recycling and composting and part of that is going to be trying to reduce the number of plastic bags," said Sarah Nelson, who is the special projects coordinator for PCFMA.
By the end of next month, consumers will notice the campaign to reduce plastics--in the form of containers and utensils served to those who buy meals and plastic bags used for produce purchases.
"All of the farmers' markets are focusing on our hot food vendors and getting them to switch over to paper and cardboard that can be composted, that will break down just like food in a composter and try to educate consumers to bring their own bags to the market and bring their own containers, coffee cups, forks and knives, whatever they want to bring so they don't have to take that plastic away from the market," Nelson said.
Nelson said this summer, representatives from the farmers' market association will be present at the Pleasanton market, which is located at Main and West Angela streets downtown, to educate residents about the initiative and composting. The cost is estimated at $5,000 for the effort, including one-time and ongoing costs, but Nelson said the goal is for it to eventually pay for itself and then some.
"Ongoing, we're hoping that it will be a reduction in cost for vendors who won't have to buy plastic bags because people will reuse their bags," she said.
Single-use bags, made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) material, can take an estimated 400 to 1,000 years to break down, and their constituent chemicals remain in the environment long after. It's estimated that less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled, and many enter local waterways, endangering animals that ingest the plastic debris.
The push for eliminating plastic bags has already had an effect on other local farmers' markets, such as Berkeley's, which will stop distributing the bags this month. Monterey's farmers' market has phased out plastic bags and the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market is working to phase them out as well. The city of San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic grocery bags in 2007.
"Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association has really led the way in looking at this material. They're doing some pretty innovative things," said Roberta Miller, who is a program manager for Stop Waste. "I really applaud their effort."
Stop Waste receives money from local garbage companies, who pay a percentage to the agency based on how many tons of garbage they drop at landfills, Miller said. That money is then given back to cities and municipalities in the county and in the form of grants.
Farm tour planned for May 17
The Pleasanton Farmers' Market will host a farm tour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 17.
Guests will visit Victorine Valley Farms, a new local olive oil producer, and Terra Bella, a family farm on Foothill Road growing vegetables on the grounds of an old Hearst family hunting lodge. Farmers' market chefs will prepare lunch at Terra Bella, using produce from the farm.
Those interested should meet at the farmers' market at 8:45 a.m. that day; the bus leaves at 9 a.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids, and lunch is included. To purchase tickets, click here For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 825-9090.