Single-use Bag Reduction Methods

Posted by — May 10, 2013 3:10 am

What’s the best way to motivate shoppers to get in the habit of using reusable bags?

Many stores offer a discount to customers for every reusable bag they use in place of single-use plastic or paper bags.  This is a great way to reward those who use reusable bags, but does it change people’s behavior?  Some stores are finding that it doesn’t.  Stop and Shop spokesperson, Suzi Robinson, said, “We talked with customers and found that while they thought the rebate was nice, it wasn’t necessarily changing their behavior.”1  In addition, “Kroger spokesman Brendon Cull says the company has found no significant difference between reusable bag frequency in markets with rebates and those without them.”2

Another option is to charge customers a fee for each single-use bag.  In 2009, Washington, D.C. passed a law which placed a 5-cent fee on paper and plastic grocery bags.  The D.C government estimated that the fee reduced single-use grocery bags by 80%, while the Beacon Hill Institute estimated a more modest 67% in their report, Two Years of the Washington, D.C. Bag Tax: An Analysis.  The report went on to argue that D.C would have to increase the 5-cent fee in order to avoid the “rebound effect,” a phenomenon in which single-use bag consumption “increases after the initial shock of the fee wears off.”3

Other stores reduce their single-use bag consumption by creating a culture that supports reusable bag use.  There are many things stores can do to build a supportive culture.  One tactic that’s often used is posting signs outside of the store, asking customers if they remembered their bags.  This helps those who tend to forget their bags in their car.  Another is training employees to ask the right questions – instead of asking “paper or plastic?” checkers can ask “would you like a bag?”  They can also thank customers any time they bring their bags, confirming that their reusable bag use is appreciated.

What method would help you get in the habit of bringing your reusable bags the most?  Maybe you’ve seen or can think of an even better method.  Let us know by taking a quick survey on our Facebook page!

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