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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 27, 2009

Biodegradable bookstore bags

Should this plastic bag that student employee Curtis Boyer is handing to a shopper find its way into a ditch or landfill, it won't stick around. And neither will the hundreds of thousands of other bags -- all 100 percent biodegradable -- that University Book Store staff hand out each year. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Bookstore bags go biodegradable

by Diana Pounds

Occasionally, someone asks University Book Store staff when the store plans to switch to biodegradable bags. There's an easy answer: "We already have."

It may be hard to believe that those sturdy bags, hefty enough to tote textbooks, will break down in nature. But Amy DeLashmutt, marketing manager at the bookstore, emphasizes they are 100 percent biodegradable.

"The bags have an additive that causes them to degrade when they're exposed to certain elements," DeLashmutt said.

Even the water-based ink on the bags is earth-friendly. Unlike solvent-based inks, water-based inks don't emit harmful chemicals into the air.

Previously, the bookstore used post-consumer recycled bags made of some recycled materials. "Post-consumer recycled content is better than just a plain old plastic bag," DeLashmutt said. "But it still will take an incredible amount of time to break down in a landfill."

At the beginning of the current fiscal year, bookstore staff decided to take the next step up the green ladder, switching to the 100 percent biodegradable product. The new bags cost about 25 percent more than the old.

"We knew it would be more expensive, but it was the right thing to do," DeLashmutt said.

"Eventually, we will be looking into a reusable bag," DeLashmutt added. "You'd be surprised how many students you see carrying around those kinds of bags. It's a matter of us doing some research and surveying some of our customers."

Live Green!

More information on Iowa State's "Live Green!" initiative is online.