January 23, 2008 —
Whole Foods has announced that it will completely discontinue the use of plastic bags in all of its 270 stores. Although most customers already favor the brown recycled paper bags that the store already offers, Whole Foods is hoping more will opt for reusable bags, completely cutting bag waste out of the equation. The change will take effect on Earth Day of this year, April 22.
When the city of San Francisco banned plastic bags last year, Whole Foods noticed that paper bag use went up only about 10 percent and that many more customers were buying the reusable bags that the store offers for 99 cents. Sensing an opportunity to take about 150 million plastic bags out of circulation without significantly increasing costs — recycled paper is more expensive than plastic — Whole Foods decided to make the switch nationally.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans use between 50 and 80 billion plastic bags a year. If the country were to go all paper, there would be a slightly positive environmental impact — resources and energy go into making recycled paper bags as well — but the real goal is to spread the use of reusable bags. Other stores such as Wal-Mart are said to be mulling over similar ways to decrease their reliance on plastic.