Grocery stores use grants to encourage communities to build with plastic bags

Posted at 1:22 PM, Jun 29, 2021

MALVERN, Iowa (KMTV) -- Paper or plastic? It’s not a question that gets asked too much anymore. Most grocery stores only offer plastic bags or give you the option to bring your own.

But grocers in Iowa want to make sure if you do pick plastic, it's being put to good use when you’re done with it.

For the past 12 years, the Iowa Grocery Industry Association has been Building with Bags; offering grant money to communities to buy materials made from plastic sacks.

“When you bring your plastic recycling bags back to the grocery store, we wanted to kind of close the loop and show consumers what happens with those," said Michelle Hurd, president of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association.

The Build with Bag program has created hundreds of pieces that can be found around the state, including benches, planters and playgrounds.

The city of Malvern was recently awarded $2,000 through the program to buy park benches to put around their walking trail at Boehner Pond.

“We’re trying to make it an all-inclusive space so people of any level or ability can come out and enjoy the pond," said Natalie Lancial with the city's Health Hometown Coalition. "Having multiple benches for people who want to walk shorter distances or just have a place to rest, I think will really help improve the usage of our pond here.”

The grant will pay for seven benches, with each being made of over 10,000 plastic bags.

“Some of the wooden benches that are the memorial benches, they just don’t last as long," Lancial said. "So why not use a great recycled product that’s also very durable?”

Hurd says over the past 12 years they’ve awarded over $365,000 to more than 250 communities across the state of Iowa, with millions of plastic bags getting a second life.

“Those dollars really do go a long way," Hurd said. "You can really see the positive impact it's having on communities across the state of Iowa."

This story originally reported by Jessika Eidson on