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Nonna’s to charge for bags in tree-planting effort

In the bag: Nonna's Kitchen owner Katherina Smith, left, and Bermuda National Trust vice-president Alana Anderson launch a new scheme where a charge for bags goes towards tree-planting on BNT properties (Photograph by Raymond Hainey)

A Hamilton restaurant has started charging for bags and donating the cash to a tree-planting scheme in a bid to boost the environment.

Nonna’s Kitchen wants to encourage people to reuse bags in a drive thought to be the first of its kind in Bermuda.

Customers who get disposable bags now have pay between five cents to 20 cents each depending on size, with the cash going to the Bermuda National Trust to plant native trees on its properties.

Katherina Smith, who co-owns Nonna’s in Bermudiana Road with husband Ben, said: “We are very happy to have found a way to encourage people to use reusable bags, while also helping the environment.

“Trees are lost in the manufacture of paper and now we are, in our small way, replacing those trees and helping Bermuda’s endemic trees to thrive and expand.”

She added: “So far, our customers have been very supportive of the fact that we are environmentally friendly and do not mind paying for the bags, especially when they learn it is going to a good cause.”

The restaurant is also encouraging the use of biodegradable food containers rather than plastic ones and has introduced eco-friendly non-plastic utensils.

The restaurant does not use plastic bags at all and already sells its own brand reusable bags at $5 each.

Ms Smith said: “When I first bought Nonna’s I was surprised at how much waste we create in Bermuda for such a small place.

“And people don’t really need a bag — they take it to take one container or item to work and then it goes in the trash. They use it for ten minutes, maybe.”

Ms Smith said: “We can help the environment in Bermuda — we’ve all seen documentaries about how much plastic there is in the ocean. With beauty like Bermuda, it’s just a shame for us not to do something.”

She added that the America’s Cup — with its strong focus on sustainable activities and ban on plastic disposables at its events — had helped inspire her to try and make a difference.

Ms Smith said: “I hope the America’s Cup will help, because people will have to go completely green during that and use biodegradable products.”

And she predicted that other companies would follow suit and introduce greener policies.

Ms Smith said: “I believe this is the future. It’s up to them whether they do what I did. I wouldn’t say everybody should do it, but I think this is what everybody will have to do.

“It will make customers more responsible as to whether they really need that bag.”

Alana Anderson, BNT vice-president, said: “We are proud to be able to partner with Nonna’s in this innovative partnership.”

She added that — if the scheme did not raise any money — it would be successful because people had got the message that reusing bags helps the environment.

But she said: “However, because that it unlikely to happen in the short term, we welcome the opportunity to plant more endemic trees which make Bermuda healthier and cleaner and also makes the island even more beautiful.”

Ms Anderson added: “I would think supermarkets and other food places will move in the direction of people having to pay for their disposable bags and it would be great if all that money went to charity.

“I believe that’s the direction other countries have gone in — when you have to pay for something, it changes your mindset completely.”

Nonna’s charges five cents for a small handleless bag, 15 cents for a small bag with a handle and 20 cents for a large bag with a handle.