ANSBACH, Germany -- U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach (USAG Ansbach) launched its first ever Plastic-Free Week Sept. 23 - 30, 2018. During the week the garrison introduced environmentally friendly plastic-free options available to the public to reduce single-use plastic and plastic waste.

The Plastic-Free Week began with a public ceremony Sunday, 23 Sept. at the military Exchange and Commissary complex located on Urlas Kaserne.

In his opening remarks launching the week-long campaign U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Commander Col. Steven Pierce said, "Approximately 300 million tons of plastic will be produced this year and scientists estimate that by 2050 there will be as much plastic in the oceans as there are fish." said Pierce. "Plastic has many beneficial uses but we must use and dispose of it responsibly; specifically single-use plastics such as straws, water bottles, plastic shopping bags and packaging, As good stewards of the environment we have to work to reduce these types of plastic."

Pierce was unsparing in his praise of the garrison DPW and its Environmental Division, recognizing by name DPW Chief Walt Mattil and Environmental Chief Lynn Daniels for their conceptualizing the Plastic-Free Ansbach initiative and organizing the campaign. "This week was their idea,' said Pierce, "and the goal was not to eliminate the use of all plastics, but to raise awareness, educate and motivate community members to reduce single use plastic on our environment -- and to hopefully thereby drive some new behaviors. I'm asking for your help this week - and into the future," said Pierce, "everyone is invited to join our Ansbach effort."

Following the ceremony a proclamation signed by both Pierce and Brig. Gen. Christopher LaNeve, Commanding General for the 7th Army Training Command was presented, bearing their joint signatures and officially making the last week of Sept. 2018 "PLASTIC-FREE WEEK" in Ansbach.

Mr. Michael Gunn, Grocery Manager at the Ansbach Commissary said that he and the Ansbach Commissary staff are very proud to be full participants in Plastic-Free Week and that the commissary is working towards ways to permanently reduce waste plastic and packaging -- not only this week, but into the future as well. "Paper shopping bags will be more readily available for Ansbach DeCA customers, and we actively encourage our patrons to use a single use plastic bag, or better yet a cloth bag to carry groceries." said Gunn. "Plastic containers used by our Deli for sandwiches will be replaced by the deli wrapping their sandwiches in the classic butch paper, just as they do at New York style deli shops." he said.

"Also, the commissary sells a verity of great reusable bags for customers convenience as well as the sturdy repeat-use bags for frozen products." said Gunn, adding "We are also very happy to be one of the main community distribution points for the free cotton "Plastic Buster" bags that are replacing so many of our white plastic bags this week, and we certainly hope we'll be seeing these cotton bags again, and for years to come."

Gunn and his team were not alone in joining the Ansbach Plastic-Free trend. Throughout the week many local organizations and facilities made a concentrated effort to meet Pierce's goals, initiating programs and offering alternatives to wasteful plastic products often taken for granted. DECA, DoDEA, Ansbach FMWR and AAFES as well as many others joined the Ansbach DPW in touting the problems with plastic waste and trumpeting the easy alternatives to single-use plastic:

-- The Commissary, Post Exchange, and Shoppette provided thousands of reusable "Plastic Buster" cotton shopping bags to the public, free of charge during the week. These sturdy bags can be folded up to the size of a wallet and kept in the car or at work to be used again and again wherever and whenever a community member shops and encounters plastic.

-- These same facilities also made a special effort to showcase a variety of smart, multi-use sport cups as alternatives to throw-away plastic bottles.

-- Ansbach schools stopped using plastic utensils and are purchasing metal utensils for daily re-use.
-- The German Kantine as well as DFAC dining facilities on post provided 'to go' boxes made of bio-degradable sugar cane, eliminating styrofoam takeaway boxes.

-- During Plastic-Free Week the Ansbach Spouses and Civilians Club Thrift Shop gave a 5 percent discount on all merchandise for any shopper who brought their own reusable bags.

-- The Ansbach Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR) advertised and held a drawing giving away a trip to the Edelweiss Resort. Entry required a simple good faith pledge use less plastic.

-- The Pharmacy of the Ansbach Medical Clinic used paper bags when dispensing prescriptions whenever possible -- and will continue to do so in the future.

-- Single and Rotational Soldiers also took part, capitalizing on special "Take One / Leave One" boxes placed in their barracks where the cotton giveaway "Plastic Buster" bags were picked up and left for buying groceries -- or transporting takeaway meals.

According to the National Geographic Society website plastic is one of the most widely used and cheapest materials in the world today. You can find it anywhere. If it's not made from plastic, it's wrapped in plastic. Worldwide, approximately 5 trillion plastic bags are used once and thrown away each year. Only 1 to 3% of all plastics used are ever recycled.

Every year, Americans go through over 42 billion plastic water bottles.

Plastic bags were introduced to U.S. supermarkets in 1977. Today, 160,000 plastic bags are used globally every second. A family of 3 will use 60 plastic bags on four visits to the supermarket. More than 5 trillion plastic bags are produced yearly. When placed side by side, they encircle the world 7 times. The majority of plastic bags remain toxic even after breaking down. It doesn't biodegrade, it photo-degrades, which means that it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits of itself, further contaminating the environment.

Plastic will only begin degrading after 700 years and will only fully degrade in 1000 years. This means that all the plastic that has ever been produced has not degraded yet. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating landfill of garbage in the Pacific Ocean is today twice the size of Texas, and almost all plastic.

More than 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions, causing the death of countless marine animals when they are mistaken for food. In 2008, a sperm whale was found beached in California. It died due to the more than 22 kilos of plastic found in its stomach. Simply by searching for "animals eat plastic bags" in Google, hundreds of stories can be found of marine animals dying from suffocation and from the eating of plastic bags, mistaking them for food. The problem is compounded when these animals die and decompose the plastic in their stomachs is released into the environment again -- and will probably kill another animal; a never ending cycle.

The U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach (USAG Ansbach) Military Community is located in the Franconian region of Bavaria and is spread across six sites and nine kasernes dispersed around the city of Ansbach and the village of Illesheim. The garrison takes pride in its support to more than 6,000 Soldiers, civilians and family members working and living within the USAG Ansbach area. To learn more about the people and facilities of the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach (USAG Ansbach) and the people they support in Ansbach, Katterbach and Illesheim, visit the community website at