I just learned that my store spends $18,000 a year on plastic bags. They are heavy-duty plastic with our logo printed on them and we use 3 different sizes, the largest one capable of bearing 35-40 pounds.
We are a locally owned business, one-of-a-kind, with the original owner still acting as buyer. We employee 20-40 people depending on the time of year. So $18,000 a year is like, a full-time minimum wage worker's yearly salary.
Personally, I hate taking bags at stores. For many years, I have avoided it whenever possible. I am THRILLED that it is becoming fashionable to have your own tote or to not use a bag at all, especially when it is something ridiculous to have in a bag, like a bag.
It has been my routine when ringing up a customer to ask if they "need" a bag, instead of automatically putting items in bags or asking if they "want" a bag. Whether they are aware of it or not, people actually consider whether or not they need a bag.
It seems like one of the simplest things we all can do to help each other out. Not only are we creating less waste when we don't take bags; it may also help that store to stay in business. It is a small thing, but those things add up. Those large plastic bags cost us $.45 apiece. Think about how much a bag costs next time you take one. If we started charging customers for each bag they "needed," you can bet they would be more willing to throw items in their purse or hold them under their arms.
One thing that customers always say that I am so tired of hearing is "I bring my canvas bags with me, but I always forget them in the car!" And everyone is too lazy to go back to their car to get their bags. No way would they pile groceries back in their cart after paying and put them in the bags at the car. I tell customers, in an encouraging way, that it is just a matter of retraining yourself. But people seem very slow to change their methods.
One customer made the most brilliant statement. She was shopping with a friend and the friend tried to pull the "I forgot my bags in the car" routine. Customer said "You know what I do when I forget my bags? I carry everything out in my arms. It is awkward and embarrassing, but I do it to punish myself. After doing that 3 or 4 times, I didn't forget my bags anymore."
Sometimes, it is possible for a customer to be my hero, if just for one day.
Someday I will tell you the saddest plastic bag story in the world.