Park District and Rodhe’s unite to reduce plastic

Park District and Rodhe’s unite to reduce plastic
Dave Mast

Thanks to a concerted effort by Rodhe’s IGA and the Holmes County Park District, there should be a lot less plastic bags cluttering the Holmes County Rails-to-Trails. The two have united to reduce the use of plastic bags as they work toward reducing plastic in a major way.


As landfills and the ocean continue to be inundated with plastic bags, a material that is incredibly difficult to get rid of and does not decompose well, people nationwide are taking steps to reduce the use of plastic and recycle it in the best way possible.

Led by a local grocer and a county organization, Holmes County is doing its part.

The Holmes County Park District has announced a collaborative effort in partnership with Rodhe’s IGA Marketplace to reduce litter along the Holmes County Trail and on a broader scale to address environmental concerns over plastic bags.

The trail, along with other public parks managed by the park district, is constantly fighting the problem of litter.

“The park district is fortunate to have a full-time trail-maintenance person who keeps the area clean, mowed and looking nice,” Holmes County Park District director Jen Halverson said. “We also benefit from the generosity of local civic-minded organizations who will assist with clean-up, especially in the spring.”

Halverson said most of the litter is easily gathered and disposed of, but plastic bags are a challenge because the wind carries them easily and they are caught in shrubs and trees off to the sides of the trail and oftentimes cannot be retrieved. Beyond aesthetics, plastic constitutes an ongoing hazard to local wetlands, harming marine and other wildlife.

To begin the new project, park board member Mike McDowell and concerned citizen Ruth Waltman approached Kurt Rodhe and daughter Keri Haley and asked if there was anything that could be done locally to make a difference.

“Obviously discarded bags along the trail come from a variety of sources, but given the Rodhe family’s historical community support, Ruth and I approached Kurt and Keri, and as it turns out, our timing was perfect,” McDowell said.

Rodhe’s is preparing to celebrate its 85th anniversary and had already decided to make a concerted effort to reduce its use of plastic bags, so the effort was a perfect fit.

“We were surprised to learn that at Rodhe’s alone approximately 720,000 plastic bags are used each year, a huge number,” Waltman said. “We also realized that this is a long-term initiative, so we are hopeful to reduce usage by 50 percent or 360,000 bags in the first year and ideally build on our success going forward. Mike and I were thrilled to learn that Kurt and Keri were not only on board, but actually had an initiative in mind to make a difference.”

Rodhe’s, as part of its 85th anniversary, had decided to purchase 10,000 reusable shopping bags and will distribute these to customers beginning the week of Sept. 23.

“We are of course aware of the environmental concerns over plastic bags and wanted to commemorate our anniversary by doing something that would make a difference, both immediately and also have a long-term impact,” Rodhe said. “The fact that the Holmes County Park District looked to us for cooperation fit nicely into our plans, so we elected to work together on the project.”

Haley, along with Melissa Rodhe, worked on designing the reusable bags, which will include the park district’s logo. During the week of Sept. 23, Rodhe’s associates, park district representatives and concerned community members will be on hand at Rodhe’s throughout the week to pass out the bags and share other pointers about reducing overall use of plastics.

“The fact that Rodhe’s Market, as a local employer, is willing to take a lead on this issue is truly impressive,” Halverson said. “The financial commitment needed to secure 10,000 reusable bags is significant. I give them lots of credit and appreciate their willingness to permit the park district to be part of the solution. Hopefully we can have an immediate impact, and maybe someday plastic bags will be a thing of the past.”

For the Rodhe family, it’s not only about reducing plastic and related litter, but also about supporting the local community and protecting the environment.

“We are proud to celebrate 85 years here in Holmes County and will continue to make a difference whenever we can,” Haley said. “Protecting the environment is something we all care about.”

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