Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Paper? Plastic? At Walmart, the push for reuseable

February 3, 2010

wmt smallbag 006Three Walmart stores in Northern California are no longer giving shoppers the option of packing their purchases in free plastic bags.

Instead, in stores in Folsom, Citrus Heights and Ukiah, Walmart is offering shoppers resuable bags — a regular sized bag for 15 cents or an oversized bag for 50 cents.

It’s part of a plan by Walmart to cut plastic shopping bag waste in its stores by one-third by 2013.

In 52 other stores in California, Walmart is now selling both of these reusable bags up front  at the register, where cashiers are encouraging shoppers to buy them when they check out (although shoppers can still opt for the free plastic bags).

When I visited the American Canyon store outside Napa Valley, plenty of shoppers were still having purchases piled into free plastic bags.  But others chose to buy reusable ones, saying they didn’t mind paying for a reusable bag if it would keep plastic ones from piling up at home.

“It’s rare you can get something for 15 cents these days,” shopper Gloria Campbell told me.

But there are skeptics, especially at the stores where Walmart no longer provides free bags. Posters on message board ask why they have to pay for something that used to be free, especially at a discount retailer known for touting its low prices.

wmtreusable bag 003Walmart is hoping shoppers will bring reusable bags (even if they’re from a competitor) to its stores, so they won’t need to buy new ones each time they go shopping.

Company spokeswoman Amelia Neufeld also said that right now this is all a test that Walmart is monitoring for customer reaction.

Given Walmart’s enormous influence in the retail industry and the fact that many local governments are looking for ways to crack down on plastic shopping bags, this is sure to be one test other retailers will keep an eye on.

(Photos taken by Reuters of the reusable bags being offered for sale at Walmart)


Unfortunately the Walmart in Milpitas does not have the 15 cent bags and is only pushing the 50 cent ones. Why not just have a bag recycling center where the environmentally conscious can recycle their bags as I already do at home?

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