Town Haul Podcast | Episode 34

    • Host: Amy Koonin (Rubicon)
    • Guest: Andy Keller
    • Listen here

Did you know that only 10 percent of plastic bags get properly recycled? According to ChicoBag CEO Andy Keller, plastic bags are one of the biggest threats to the environment. That’s why he started ChicoBag, a company that sells compact reusable bags. On this episode of the Town Haul, host Amy Koonin chats with Keller about why he started the company, and why reducing plastic bag usage is such a big deal.

On how he got inspired to start ChicoBag:

ANDY KELLER: “I was told to recycle, and don’t litter. Those are basically the two things I was told to be a good citizen, and what I realized is that all those plastic bags were disposed of properly, and they were still getting out into the wild because they were blowing out of the landfill, so it wasn’t necessarily a consumer responsibility issue.

This kind of led me to the understanding that it’s bigger than that. It also involves producers, and there’s producer responsibility as well. And so this awakening led me to start thinking about bags like I was a plastic bag user up until that point, but  I never really thought about how many plastic bags I used, what they were made out of, where they went.

I decided to stop using plastic bags right then, and then from there, I started, the unemployed side of my brain started kicking in, and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. If I can solve this problem, maybe I can create a business out of it as well.’”

On what ChicoBag is all about:

ANDY KELLER: “The issue I saw was that reusable bags have been around for years. The issue is that people forget them at home or in the car, and they’re not easy to use, so I wanted to come up with a bag that was super easy to use. The idea I had was if I can just keep it in my pocket or if someone could keep it in their purse or hooked onto a backpack or belt loop, you wouldn’t need to remember your bag.

You’d have it with you wherever you went, and so what ChicoBag is. It’s a line of bags that all compact down into a little pouch that have a carabiner on it, and it’s about the size of an old cell phone, maybe. It’s about the size of your mouse on your computer, and it has a carabiner on it, so you can clip it onto something, and you can put it on your keychain, and you can have it with you, and it opens up to be a full-sized shopping bag that holds up to 40 pounds for most of our models.”

On why plastic bags are so bad for the environment:

ANDY KELLER: “Depending on who you ask, no more than 10% of plastics are actually recycled. They’re made of fossil fuel, it’s a nonrenewable resource, and at the end of their life, they can become plastic pollution.

They’re ending up in a lot of ways in oceans and plastic pollution is, I would say, the second biggest threat to the earth after climate change. They’re finding plastic in the North Pole and the South Pole, in all waterways, everywhere.”

On the ‘Bag Monster’:

ANDY KELLER: “The ‘Bag Monster’ is what the average American uses in plastic bags in one year. That’s about 500 bags, and so picture a costume, it’s like a jumpsuit that you can get into that is covered with 500 plastic bags, and you essentially look like the Michelin Man or some sort of crazy chicken, and even with a headpiece.

I wear the costume because people, a lot of times, don’t even realize how many plastic bags they’re using, and when they come face to face with the Bag Monster, they’re coming face to face with their consumption and realizing that naturally, ‘Well, gosh, maybe I don’t need to use that many plastic bags,’ and so there’s an awakening that I see when I wear the costume. People understand that we’re using way too much plastic and we certainly can use less.”

On the advice he’d give to a budding entrepreneur:

ANDY KELLER: “Put one step in front of the other and just keep moving forward. I think a lot of people get stuck in the thinking stage and the planning stage, and I always think, ‘Take a small step and reassess.’”

On his go-to karaoke song:

ANDY KELLER: “Piano Man.”

To listen to more episodes of The Town Haul Podcast hosted by Amy Koonin, click here! 

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