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January 28, 2008

No More Plastic Bags at Whole Foods

Category: Companies,News,Observations – Tom Harrison – 10:45 am

Whole Foods continues to be a cool company. This April, they will no longer offer plastic bags to shoppers. We have been re-using their reusable bags for a good long time now (and not just when we shop at Whole Foods). They work better than paper or plastic, and they last a long time. It can take a while to remember to bring them with you, but there are pretty much no other negatives I can see.

I wonder how it came to be that paper or plastic bags were so ubiquitous?

It’s an important question to ask. It could be argued that having a grocer provide a bag for a purchase is convenient, or perhaps even a reasonable thing to offer to customers. But there’s a big difference between providing the option to use an amenity versus regular, presumed usage. As it turns out, providing zillions of bags is expensive for the grocer. But I think this is a little like “sticky prices” which is a term used in economics — it’s hard to undo a change. So perhaps in 1950 one upscale grocery started giving out bags to its clientèle. Did it become a status symbol that other retailers had to copy?

I couldn’t find much history of the paper bag, but I recall that as a child, we would get our groceries in one of the boxes originally used to bring them to the store. And plastic bags came on the scene in the 70’s or 80’s and insinuated themselves into our lives. Silently. Who knew?

Things like plastic bags kind of creep up on us, don’t they?

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