The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Grocery Bags

Grocery Bags

Shoppers and Trends

April 27, 2008

Grocery Bags
Dear Phil,
In light of all the reports of chains like Whole Foods doing away with plastic and paper bags, how viable is this trend for common chains like Kroger and Safeway? Can they go beyond offering recyclable bags? And, is this trend really based on solid science or just a “feel good” trend?
Well over a billion single-use plastic bags are given out for free each day. The annual cost to U.S. retailers alone is close to $4 billion. In a landfill, plastic bags take up to 1,000 years to degrade. So yes, the trend to eliminate plastic bags and replace them with environmentally-friendly reusable bags is extremely viable.
Some retailers have begun selling canvas bags, but I would like to see them give these bags away for free. There will be upfront costs, however, over time, as people start to reuse their bags, these costs will lessen and eventually be reduced to minimal amounts.
Also, I don’t think it’s enough to provide plain canvas bags that call attention to their green-ness. Retailers have a real opportunity now to make their reusable bags hip. Target and Barneys are already doing this. Our customers should feel like carrying these reusable bags is a desirable style – a sign of being cool and with the times.
If we make the transition to reusable bags fun, customers will be more willing to jump on board, and less likely to forget their bags at home or in the car.
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