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Flagstaff's Azulita Project Calls For Reusable Takeout Bags

Ordering takeout takes maybe three simple steps, but plastic bags don’t break down for 10 to 20 years. As takeout order sales continue to skyrocket, so does single-use plastic bag waste.

Flagstaff’s Azulita Project has launched an initiative to change that. The Tote-Ally reusable bag program encourages restaurants and the public to use reusable bags for takeout orders, but with a twist. Once customers are done with the bags, they return them to one of Azulita Project’s donation sites so they can be disinfected and put back into circulation.

Emily Melhorn is the programs manager for the Azulita Project. 

“This is an important aspect to really manage the reduction of single-use plastic bag waste that comes from curbside pickup [and] deliveries,” Melhorn said. 

The Azulita Project is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2008 in the Los Llanos Region of Guerrero, Mexico. The project’s focus was centered around creating solutions for reducing marine plastic waste. In Flagstaff, the Azulita Project’s focus is in reducing plastic waste by educational programs and events. 

Melhorn said that reusable bag have become popular for grocery shopping but not for takeout orders. She said she is hoping that this new project educates the community about the benefits of recirculating reusable bags. 

“It needs to be a model where the bag is seen as a community asset and that it keeps getting reused in the community," Melhorn said.

Residents can donate bags at the Flagstaff Visitor Center, Mountain Sports Flagstaff, Stronghold Coffee Co.

From May to October, residents can also drop off bags at the Flagstaff Community Farmers Market. 

Autriya Maneshni joined KJZZ as an intern in January 2021. She is a sophomore at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, majoring in journalism with a psychology minor. She moved to Arizona from Iran when she was 9 years old and would listen to KJZZ every morning on her way to school. She is thrilled to be working for the station that means so much to her. Maneshni loves radio and podcasts and decided to pursue both of those passions at Cronkite. She currently hosts an Iranian music radio show called “Foreign Fusion” on Blaze Radio, ASU’s student-run radio station. She made podcasts for the State Press, touching on topics of student life and COVID-19. She also wrote several articles for ASU Odyssey, covering everything from news to mental health advice. In her free time, you can find Maneshni making coffee, playing the ukulele and talking to her friends. She also takes pride in her huge Chuck Taylor Converse shoe collection that keeps growing over the years. Maneshni hopes to someday become an anchor for a local radio or television station. She would like to go to graduate school in New York City and also gain field experience there.