Will That be Paper, Cardboard, or Would You Like to Put Your Groceries in Your Pockets?

Imagine the world without plastic bags. More importantly, try to imagine buying groceries without the things. Now, many people are quite able and willing to do this (I use a backpack and/or bundle buggy along with canvas bags) but for most people, no bags = dilemma.

Loblaws, a Canadian grocery chain, announced today that one of their stores in Milton, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, would be the first bagless store in North America.

In its continued effort to become a more responsible GREEN retailer, and in response to Canadian consumer support for environmental initiatives, the new Milton Loblaw Superstore will be the first major grocery and general merchandise retail store in North America to eliminate traditional plastic grocery bags at the checkouts.

In April of this year, Loblaw Companies Limited made a commitment to reduce 1 billion plastic grocery bags from Canada’s landfills within one year. Reducing the amount of plastic grocery bags offered in stores, and offering more sustainable choices, will help achieve this goal. Currently, Ontarians use almost 80 plastic bags per second, close to 7 million plastic bags per day.

It should be noted that Loblaws sells their own version of a reusable grocery bag, as well as a “green box” which fits into store shopping carts and which holds 3 to 5 regular grocery bags. Each household in Milton was mailed a complimentary reusable bag, and a coupon for a free Green Box with a minimum $25 purchase. Additional bags will be sold at a “buy one get one free” price, and boxes at $1 off until October 6th, 2007. And of course, shoppers may bring in their own bags of any type.

The press release doesn’t say what happens to people who show up to buy groceries without reusable bags to carry their stuff home in. Reusable bags from all major Canadian grocery retailers have been selling well over the past few months since stores started offering them, but they’ve been selling well in part due to the fact that so many people buy the things and then forget them at home or on the trunk of the car. I seem to recall the PC bags being only $1 each, so presumably if forgetful customers want bags, they’ll have to buy new reusable ones.

The problem is that the Loblaws reusable bags are pretty bulky; they’re not something that would fold up easily in an average to small handbag or a pocket. You sort of have to plan to be going for groceries to really use them. So folks popping in to grab a few items for dinner on the way home from work may soon find that they’ve amassed quite a collection of reusable PC bags – all at $1 a pop.

And you know what does fold up easily in the bottom of a small purse or handbag? That’s right – a plastic grocery bag. Here’s betting the folks in Milton start hoarding the things and keeping them tucked in a pocket or purse for those last-minute supermarket trips.