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ST. LOUIS – It’s a small decision that can have a big impact.

“The average family that makes the switch to reusable bags can save about 1,500 plastic bags each year,” said Leslie Gittemeier, the #ByeToBags coordinator at the Saint Louis Zoo.

When not disposed of properly, single-use plastic bags can get into sewers, end up in rivers, and then float their way to the ocean, putting all kinds of animals at risk of getting ​entangled in or ingesting the plastics.

“If it fills up their stomach, they can’t really break it down and pass it,” Gittemeier said. “So, it can really accumulate. And if they don’t have enough space in their stomach for normal food, they can starve.”

The Saint Louis Zoo’s Zoo Alive teen volunteers created the #ByeToBags pledge in 2016 to protect wildlife from the dangers of plastic pollution.

“With us having over fourteen thousand pledgers, that adds up to between 140,000 and 410,000 plastic bags from being used each week,” Gittemeier said.

When you take the pledge, you get a #ByeToBags tote to start you off on the right foot and a special reminder tag.

“They can hang on your rearview mirror,” Gittemeier said. “Or some people even put them on their door handle at home so that when they’re leaving the house they remember to grab the bags.”

If you do end up with a wad of plastic bags, don’t throw them out.

“If you get the plastic bags, then it is definitely recommended that you recycle them. There are many drop-off locations, usually at grocery stores.”

Ever thought of working at the zoo? They will be hosting job fairs on Saturday, January 29, and Friday, February 4, 2022,  from 9 a.m. to noon. They will be looking for workers from everything from food service to conductors on the famous Zooline Railroad.