More Plastic Bags at Whole Foods
April 22, on Earth Day, Whole Foods is making a strong environmental
statement by no longer offering plastic bags.
That means roughly 100 million plastic bags will
be kept out of the environment between that date and the end of
2008, the company says.
In place of the fly-away plastic bags scorned by
many environmentalists, Whole Foods will offer several options:
free paper bags in four sizes made from 100% recycled paper, reusable
bags 80% made from recycled plastic bottles for 99 cents and canvas
bags selling for $6.99 to $35. It encourages consumers to bring
their own bags by taking 5 cents to 10 cents off the bill for each.
The move comes as cities, states and even countries are trying
to eliminate non-biodegradable plastic bags from cityscapes, waterways
and landfills. San Francisco banned them. Oakland is considering
a ban. New York and New Jersey require retailers to recycle them.
China announced a ban this month.
Among other retailers, most Trader Joe's stores use paper bags,
though some offer plastic. Ikea's U.S. stores charge 5 cents for
plastic bags, which is mostly donated to a conservation group.
While Whole Foods is tiny compared with the rest of the retail grocery
industry, its role as a trendsetter is huge. Whole Foods' success
played a major role in nudging top supermarket chains to sell organic
"By getting ahead of the inevitable, Whole Foods will maintain
and enhance its halo of superiority," says marketing consultant
Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic bags annually,
says Worldwatch, an environmental research group. It takes more
than 1,000 years for a non-recyclable plastic bag to break down
in a landfill, it says.
"This is a big deal," says Lisa Mastny, consumption
project director at Worldwatch. "We hope to see a domino
But not everyone is impressed.
During a test in Austin, one angry customer wrote Whole Foods
that he'll miss the plastic bags he uses for tossing out garbage.
Some 92% of people re-use their plastic bags, says
Keith Christman, senior director of packaging at the American
a trade group. He says he's not concerned about Whole Foods'
actions because the company "is different from other chains."
In San Francisco, where most plastic bags are banned,
it costs grocers twice as much to supply paper bags, but costs
have not been passed on to shoppers, says Dave Heylen, spokesman
for the California Grocers Association. "Consumers are still
in a learning curve."
To look at some cute reusable bag options, please visit our Reusable