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Plastic Bag Reduction Strategies Are Working

Supermarket chain efforts to reduce paper and plastic bag distribution are working—and the numbers are starting to speak for themselves.

Publix Super Markets estimates a daily paper and plastic bag reduction of more than one million per day since it launched its reusable bag initiatives in 2007. Recently, the chain announced the number of bags it’s saved since mid 2007 has surpassed the 1 billion mark!

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Food Association has announced a 25 percent reduction in the number of disposable paper and plastic shopping bags used since 2007 at 12 supermarket chains, including 384 stores. This is well on the way to the goal of a reduction of at least 33 percent by 2013.

Reusable grocery bags, long more popular in Europe than North America, are catching on in Canada as well.

Controversial when it was first implemented, Toronto’s plastic bag bylaw, the first and only one of its kind in any large Canadian city, marked its first anniversary this summer. Under the bylaw, Toronto retailers are required to charge a nickel for every single-use plastic retail shopping bag requested by customers.

In  Ontario alone, one supermarket chain says its plastic bag distribution rate has fallen between 70 and 80 percent, while another claims a 72 percent decrease. A third chain reports that its national plastic bag distribution has dropped 55 percent and that it diverted 1.3 billion plastic bags from landfill sites in 2009.

These impressive reductions all have one common thread: outreach and employee training.

Publix trains employees to increase the number of items per bag, implements bag reduction goals for each store, produces campaigns to encourage the use of reusable bags, and donates reusable bags to non-profits and partner organizations.

In Massachusetts, each supermarket chain has implemented programs to encourage customers to use fewer disposable bags, while training staff to reduce wasteful distribution of bags. Chains are offering reusable bags for sale and providing cash incentives for reusable bag use, accepting used plastic bags for recycling, and posting instructional signs reminding patrons not to forget to bring their reusable bags.

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