Plastic bags and the powers of persuasion

I fear that this isn’t significant enough for the pit, but I am becomimg increasingly pissed off by one of our major supermakets: Marks and Spencer (M & S) to wit.

Just to make it clear, M & S are a wonder. It’s only one aspect of their food departments that I have an issue with. They supply a huge range of mouthwatering ready meals and high quality food and wines, but recently have joined the ‘save the planet from plastic carrier bags’ syndrome. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as keen as the next man to stop our kids being fried, drowned and asphixiated by global warming, nor do I want to see them drowning in a sea of non biodegradeable substances, but I’m damned if I’m going to be bullied into doing it.

You see, what those pompous prats have decided is, if you don’t bring your own carrier bags, they fine you by charging you 5p for one of theirs. It’s not the money, by the way, it’s the principle. Sometimes, I’m just passing and want to impulse buy a few things, and no, Mr Smartypants, I haven’t thought to stuff a selection of carrier bags into my trouser pockets. So I get to the till, and the smarmy cashier says, “Have you brought your bags?”, and all the other people in the queue are sniggering at my lack of greeness when I say no.

So I’m embarrassed, but I’m not going to give in and pay for one of the damn bags. So I pile up my purchases in my arms against my chest, and because your (non recyclable, for god’s sake) packaging is leaking, I’m getting a multicoloured stain dribbling down my chest.

By this stage, I’m totally regretting even stepping into your emporium. But I’m not giving up: I’m a man of principle who isn’t going to be browbeaten by your corporate bullying. So, stained, and bloodied, but with head held high, I stagger into the British high street.

So, why can’t you do what one of our other supermarkets do, and pay me points on my card when I bring my own bags? You see, they’ve got it the right way round: reward me for being a goody-two-shoes, not castigate me for not doing it your way. Reward not punishment.

Do you Yanks have to put up with this sort of holier-than-thou attitude, or is it just us miserable Brits?

Not a Yank but Aldi have always charged for their bags in Australia. I used to buy one everytime I went there but finally worked out that I had tons of them at home. Fortunately I only ever go there when I am in the car so I chucked them all in the boot and just take one out each visit.

Coincidentally I have got to the point where they are all inside my flat again and when I went to Aldi on Saturday I had to restrict my purchases to what I could press to my chest. Tomorrow I restock the boot.

I’ve never been to a store that rewards me for bringing my own bags, nor one that fines me for not bringing bags. My store does give me a convenient place by the entry to drop off old bags for recycling, which I do with the bags that don’t end up in the trash. (I don’t buy trash bags; I use the grocery bags instead, but 99.44% of the bags go back for recycling.) I believe they actually recycle them, as the cashiers bitch at me for bringing used bags back; they say the recycled bags are more of a pain to work with.

Overall, I’d agree with you. I’d try to change the store’s policy through my behavior. I’d find it amusing to go to your store, then abandon my intended purchase and walk out when the cashier tried to charge me for the bag. I did it with a huge pile of groceries once when they tried to card me for a bottle of wine; they don’t card me anymore.

The Kroger grocery store I went to when I lived in Michigan gave a 5 cent discount per bag you brought in. The Ikea I went to in Atlanta yesterday charged 5 cents for each plastic bag you needed from them. So it can go either way, depending on the company. We see both here in the States.
As far as consumer participation goes, I’m still an anomaly at the Kroger here in the Macon area when I bring my bags from home and give them to the bagger at checkout. Conservation can sometimes be seen by Southerners as ‘uppity’ behavior.

I think this is the real issue you should be complaining about. Not providing plastic bags without a fee, in some lame attempt in pretending to be environmentally aware, and yet the actual packaging remains non-recyclable? What’s the point of that?

It’s all or nothing, I say, otherwise it’s mis-using everybody’s energies.

The Hillers I go to here gives you a 5c discount for every bag you bring in. I kind of like the idea of the fine better because it seems like it would be a good motivator. It seems like the social pressure you felt in line would probably cause a weaker person to cave and start bringing in their own bags. I think this is a good thing.

I had an interesting experience the other day when I bought a cup of yogurt at a grocery store. As I was going through the line, the bagger asked if plastic was okay, and I told her I didn’t need a bag. She just smiled and said, ‘‘If you don’t take a bag we’ll have to put a sticker on it’’ and handed me my cup of yogurt in a completely unnecessary plastic bag. That really annoyed me.

When I used to go to the States many years ago, y’all seemed to use brown paper bags, which are, obviously, recyclable. The drawbacks would seem to be: the expense, the breakability, and continents of trees needed for them.

Hasn’t anyone invented recyclable plastic?

My experience matches Nawth Chucka.

I do carry a little bag with me from Onya bags - it clips into the inside of my purse so I am never without it - good for a quick impulse buy and I do not need a bag.

But there’s the rub. I’m a man. I don’t do purses.

Combined a couple of posts to reply, hope that’s ok. I’m a guy and don’t do purses either. I can still get brown paper bags by request, but recyclable plastic bags are the default at the three grocers I patronize. I get the feeling that the majority of shoppers don’t recycle bags (just a feeling; no evidence and I’d be delighted to be wrong), but I’m far from the only one who does; the bins are frequently full when I take my bags back. So, recycling the recyclable bags and no charge for bags when checking out is my personal preference and I’ll vote for it by avoiding merchants who want to charge me.

What?!? You mean plastic bags are recyclable. What the f— are M & S getting on their high horses for then?

A few low end crappy places try to charge you for bags. I don’t shop there they are such shit holes anyway. They also tend to be the ones that go out of business when the other grocery stores have been there for decades. Stores that penalize you tend to give the shopper a impression that they suck and going an extra 5 miles is worth it to avoid them. The only way to give a positive come back impression is to be on of the places that give small rewards to do what they would like done.

To the OP: Just pay the damn 5 cents.

Paper bags are more environmentally friendly, but the damn tree huggers forget that paper comes from a renewable resource (trees!). Paper bags can be recycled, and can be reused for groceries without the same hassles as reusing the plastic ones. Plus, the paper and lumber industry is closer to sustainability then petroleum.

I bought some Canvas bags from King Soopers (Krogers) for my shopping. I can get 20lbs of food in each bag, and the cloth handles make them more comfortable to carry then the plastic bags. Since I walk to the store, the comfort and convenience factors make the purchase worth it. Plus, the 5 cents they give me each time I bring in my own bag has almost paid for them.

Well, I don’t know what you get, but the bags I get are recyclable; the flimsier produce bags are, too. Both the grocery bags and the lighter produce department bags are #2 HDPE*, so I just wait till I have a grocery bag stuffed to the gills with other grocery bags and produce bags and take it to the store with me to drop off as I enter.

  • they have the three-arrow recyclable mark on them, with a ‘2’ inside it and HDPE (high density poly ethylene, I think?) below it

Because “reuse” comes before “recycle”. Also, because “recyclable” doesn’t mean “are recycled”. My WAG is also that the vast majority of people don’t reuse or recycle their bags, which verily doth sucketh.

Remember the three "R"s of the new millennium:

Reduce: if you pay for each bag, you’re likely to take fewer. Free bags = double bagging things that don’t need to be and/or what I like to call Target Packing. Target, for some ungodly reason, likes to pack nearly everything in its own bag, so I end up struggling with 25 bags for 30 items. It’s ridiculous, and it must be taught by corporate because EVERY cashier I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with does it unless caught and corrected early in the transaction.

Reuse: again, if you’ve paid for something, you’re less likely to throw it in the trash and more likely to use it again as a cat box liner, a trash bin liner, a lunch bag, a hat, a brooch or a pterodactyl.

Recycle: last on the list for a reason. It’s actually cheaper and less energy intensive, at the moment, to make new plastic bags than to recycle the old used ones. (We just had a thread on this - the only commonly recycled material that’s not cheaper to just make more new is aluminum.) So even if your community does support recycling for plastic bags, they should only be turned in for recycling after you’ve reduced the number you used and then reused the ones you take as much as possible first.

So asking you to pay for bags makes a ton of sense, from the point of view of increasing the three Rs. However, the shaming tactic is obnoxious and uncalled for. It would be much easier if, like the Aldi’s here, they simply and politely said, “And do you need any bags today?” and quietly charged you for them just as if you were buying a pack of gum. Sure, go ahead and charge, but don’t be a dick about it.

I was enjoying having a good rant, and I meant everything I said. What I didn’t say was that when we *plan * to go shopping, we take our collection of ‘bags for life’ - it’s just I’m dammed if I’m going to be punished for impulse shopping. I know you could say, ‘if you object that much, why go there?’. I just *love * their food.

In all seriousness, we do try to be as green as we can. We recycle everything we can. But if someone’s going to browbeat me into it, I’ll be contrary as I want - so CoG888: no, no, no! I won’t, I won’t! (Stamps foot and goes off in a huff).

Now, if they were to ask me nicely…

(Actually, there’s another thread to be had in how rubbish collection here in the UK works - or doesn’t work).

I love my cloth bags, and always use them while grocery shopping. Often, though, I will totally forget to take one in if I go to Target or another non-grocery store. I have a weird brain block about non-grocery places.

I would be pretty irritated if I was charged for a bag. There are places like Aldi where it seems fine because it’s part of the established Aldi deal, but I would be crabby about it other places. As others have said, reward the bringers, don’t punish the non-bringers.

Another punish you for shopping here practice is the grocers that won’t give you a lower advertised price, because you don’t have a store card. Screw them.

We’ve got a plastic bag tax over here. Plastic bags cost 22c and the proceeds go to environmental projects. It’s been a great success.

All shops do offer paper/reusable alternatives.

You give them 5p, they give you a bag. That’s not a fine, that’s a sale.