Walk into an Osoyoos grocery store this morning and you’ll pay a nickel for every plastic bag you need for your groceries.
Or you can opt for reusable bags and save your coin.
Both Buy Low Foods and AG Foods Wednesday began an effort to move away from using plastic grocery bags — joining a trend that has taken root in many grocery stores across Canada and around the world.
For the next few days, both stores are offering free reusable bags in an effort to make the switch easier for customers.
“Right now, we’re giving away a cloth bag with each purchase,” said Derek Morgan, general manager at AG Foods. “For $50, you’re going to get two bags, for $75, three.”
“We’re trying to get the cloth bags out there as much as possible. We’re trying to keep people from having to purchase bags.”
“It’s all about reducing waste,” added Brian Fry, manager at Buy-Low Foods. “It’s all about the environment and not throwing as many into the landfill.”
His store will also be giving away reusable cloth bags to customers over the next week — one for each $25 worth of groceries purchased.
The change doesn’t come without some controversy. Although many retailers say they charge for bags for environmental reasons — chief among them to reduce landfill waste — some consumers see the practice as nothing more than nickel-and-diming to increase profits.
Mr. Fry says that’s not the case — at least with his store.
“Some of the funding will go towards subsidizing the reusable bags,” he said. “But this is more about the incentive. By far, the positive comments are outnumbering the negative.”
The non-woven polypropylene bags offered at both stores are strong and durable and easy to wipe clean, making each bag a dependable sack for a year’s worth of shopping trips.
In some Canadian communities — chief among them Montreal, with Victoria joining it in July — disposable plastic shopping bags are banned.
According to Conserving Now, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are annually consumed worldwide — more than one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
The average US family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
Opponents to cloth bags say the reusable bags carry with them their own environmental impact.
Non-woven polypropylene sacks are not recyclable in Canada and usually manufactured overseas. As well, health officials encourage a regular hand- or spray-washing of each bag to prevent bacterial cross contamination of food.
Consumers looking to take their support for the environment to the next level should skip using available bags for produce, instead opting to bring their own reusable produce bags or placing fruit and vegetables freely in a reusable shopping bag.