That New Plastic Bag Saves…If Only You’d Use It

Saturday night I ended up in Marshalls. While Cindy shopped for lingerie, I sat in a chair and watched Russian immigrants chatting and noticed how many of the rest of the people in the store were obese. In front of me was a rack of non-woven polypropylene shopping bags, navy blue with Marshall’s logo printed on front. Then I remembered that I saw a story in Friday’s WSJ titled “An Inconvenient Bag,” about the dilemma these new bags present. I dug it out of recycling to take another look.

The problem is that most people buy them with great zeal and then leave them in closets, in cars, and at home, instead of actually using them when they go shopping. It takes 28 times as much energy to make one of these 99 cent bags than a plastic T bag, and eight times as much as it takes to make a paper sack, according to the story.

But changing consumer’s habits is tough. Some stores are now printing bar codes onto the bags and rewarding shoppers for actually using them. “Companies can offer prizes or other incentives to customers who can prove their bag isn’t just collecting dust at home.”

The bags are the new rage in retailing, and cities like San Francisco actually banning the disposable plastic bags in supermarkets and chain drug stores. Soon it may be hard to find bag in places like Ikea who are phasing out the plastic disposable ones entirely.

Now big retailers like Walmart and CVS are putting out the 99 cent bags at the checkout lines, and since they have the company logos printed on them, it seems that they are enforcing a loyalty too. Who wants to walk into Target carrying a Walmart tote bag?