Reducing Waste One Bag at a Time
Natural Times, July/August/September 2012
By Cristin Burns, Marketing Manager
On April 21, 2012, New Leaf Market became the first grocery store in Tallahassee to institute a reusable bag cash incentive ($0.03 per bag) to encourage customers to bring and use their reusable bags. Since then, over 10,100 reusable bags have come through the registers! That’s 10,100 grocery bags that never made it to the landfill.
“Efforts to reduce paper waste are not new to us,” said General Manager Larrane Hartridge. The Co-op has increased its office waste recycling, recycled over 66 tons of cardboard last year, and sells its reusable bags at cost to make them more affordable to customers. “We are hopeful,” said Hartridge, “that this reusable bag incentive will drastically reduce the use of paper grocery bags at New Leaf Market.”
And it has, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. The reduction of 10,100 is 2.76 percent of New Leaf Market’s annual paper order; the Co-op uses over 365,000 100-percent recycled paper grocery bags a year.
“By Earth Day 2013,” says Merchandising Manager Chris Terrell, “We hope to be able to brag that we have reduced our paper bag usage by 10 percent.”
A 10 percent reduction in paper bag use would save 28,000 New Leaf Market paper bags from the landfill, which also saves the energy it takes to make paper bags.
While recycling is better than trashing grocery bags, according to the EPA, Americans currently only recycle 19.4 percent of paper bags.
And then there’s the paper bag myth that paper bags are more natural than plastic and therefore better. Paper bag production takes more than four times as much energy (2,511 BTU) than plastic (594 BTU). Any reduction of paper bag use also reduces the fuel needed for harvesting the wood pulp, manufacturing, transportation, and disposal.
“We know that bringing your own bags can be a chore, but we’re confident that our customers are ready to help us reduce paper at New Leaf Market,” says Front End Manager Adriane Pitt. “Who knows, maybe someday we’ll be paper bag free!”