Got Your Bags

Chairman’s Update – April 2013

Will you follow the City of Key West Commission’s example? 


On Tue March 19, the Key West City Commission passed a resolution supporting companions House Bill 957 and Senate Bill 722, {hyperlink to } which, if passed, would prohibit certain stores from providing disposable plastic bags. It would apply to large businesses but not small mom-and-pop operations. Customers can use their own bags in the store or, reusable paper bags may be dispensed for a fee of which 50% of the fee is distributed to the local school district, 50% back to the store.

As a State-wide bill it gives each local municipality the option to adopt these provisions based on the will of their local communities. This is a very practical approach and realistically we know that will take some time to become accepted State-wide. In the meantime, the idea that such a bill may exist gives groups like Got Your Bags? Florida Keys the motivation to keep with our campaign on plastic bag reduction.

Key West Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, who owns two Fausto's Food Palace locations in Key West, replaced plastic with recyclable paper bags in his grocery stores four years ago. He said the switch has been "accepted extremely well. One of the things that I've noticed is that people keep reusing those paper bags. We thought it was the right thing to do for the community and we hoped others would follow."

What can you do?   We encourage you to support this bill in the FL Senate by sending Senator Bullard a simple email like the one here: “Dear Senator Bullard, Thank you for introducing Bill 722. I strongly support this bill. (Feel free to add in any other text, for example, where you live, why you think it’s a good bill.)   

Sign your name and email it to   Thanks!

Since we launched this campaign we have been encouraged by the interest shown by communities in and outside of the Keys who want to implement similar campaigns. We have had inquiries from Orlando, Key West, Islamorada, and Cincinnati, Ohio!  If you would like to implement a campaign in your community please check the link on the left of this webpage “Implementing the campaign in your community” and download the package of campaign materials. Guidelines and useful information is contained within this package.

Our last outreach booth of the season was April 20th at the Earth Day celebration at Bahia Honda State Park. It was a fabulous day and our booth was quite popular. Many people who already have made the switch from plastic to reusable shopping bags stopped by to Take The Pledge and get a new bag! If you haven’t already pledged to reduce plastic bag usage, you can sign your pledge at our Sponsor/Partner First State Bank on Big Pine Key and receive your complimentary reusable bag, too.

Lastly I would like to thank the over 60 local Big Pine Key businesses who have signed the pledge to do their best to reduce plastic bag usage in their line of business. Another big thanks to those individuals and businesses who have donated in-kind goods and services and cash in support of our campaign. Click on the link “Campaign Sponsors” and “See Who’s Taken the Pledge” to see the list of names.



“Got Your Bags?”  Florida Keys is a coalition of residents, businesses, organizations, and local government dedicated to the reduction and voluntary elimination of single use plastic bags.  We plan to focus our initial efforts on Big Pine Key, with the hope that other islands in the Florida Keys may eventually embrace our goals.  It is well documented how damaging this little everyday item is to wildlife.  Not only do we live in a refuge for many protected species, but we all benefit from an economy that relies on the National Marine Sanctuary surrounding our island community.  It is a unique and fragile environment that deserves the little additional effort that it takes to sustain its viability.  

Many individuals and organizations are aware of this problem and have started using and promoting reusable shopping bags to reduce the litter created by single use plastic bags.  But the problem seems to persist, largely because of human forgetfulness, laziness, or just being uninformed.  It is a global problem.  This local campaign is adapted from a successful model used in California and Maine to unite the personal efforts of residents and local business people to work together in an effort to overcome these obstacles.  

“Got Your Bags – Florida Keys” is a grassroots community-based initiative.  Throwing money at this problem does not solve it.  It takes every individual in a strong, united community to be effective.  Your part is easy.  If you are a retailer, don't dispense plastic bags; if you are a resident- don't use them!  Once you make the transition, it will take no extra time from your busy day and the results will be a cleaner and safer environment and a more sustainable lifestyle.  We hope the Big Pine Key Got Your Bag campaign will eventually serve as a model for all of the island communities in the Florida Keys and the entire State of Florida.

Thank you for joining us!

Ken Chopcinski


“Got Your Bags?” Florida Keys/Big Pine Key Campaign

GLEE is proud to be a Fiscal Sponsor of the Got Your Bags – Florida Keys Program.   GLEE Board Member Jackie Grasley (left) with Dolly Garlo and Shirley Gun, Got Your Bags – Florida Keys sealing the partnership, August 2012.

Thanks to our founding sponsor Save-A-Turtle who donated $2500. Harry Appel, Save-A-Turtle Board member (center) with Ken Chopcinski and Deb Curlee, Got Your Bags – Florida Keys. This donation will be used to get the program started with reusable bags and fund operating and outreach expenses. Save-A-Turtle is based out of Marathon and is a strong supporter of the Got Your Bags Florida Keys program.


A Not So Beautiful Ode to Plastic Bags

Marine debris is man-made waste that either directly or indirectly is disposed of in oceans, rivers or other waterways.  Most trash reaches the sea via rivers, and 80% of that originates from landfills or other urban sources. In the Florida Keys where we are surrounded by water, a blowing plastic bag has a high likelihood of reaching the ocean within just days, or sometimes immediately. Click here to read the full story