A blog set out to explore, archive & relate plastic pollution happening world-wide, while learning about on-going efforts and solutions to help break free of our addiction to single-use plastics & sharing this awareness with a community of clean water lovers everywhere!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Grocery stores ready as Bellingham plastic bag ban starts this week

published July 29, 2012 on thenewstribune.com by Dave Gallagher

Sue McGroddy of Sudden Valley loads groceries into her car in a reusable tote box from The Market on Lakeway Drive, Thursday, July 26, 2012 in Bellingham. The Market on Lakeway Drive have sold reusable tote boxes for two weeks in anticipation of the plastic bag ban in Bellingham grocery stores. (NICK GONZALES/THE BELLINGHAM HERALD)
While Bellingham's single-use plastic bag ban is expected to take some time for shoppers to get used to, local stores appear ready to make the shift this week.

The bag ban starts Wednesday, Aug. 1. Shoppers will either have to bring in reusable bags or pay a nickel for each paper bag they need at checkout.

The biggest impact among businesses will be at grocery stores, where single-use plastic bags have been commonplace in recent years. Those stores are not only ready for the ban but are welcoming it.

"Overall I think it's a good thing," said Sue Cole, a spokeswoman for The Markets LLC. "We want to be part of the solution."

Aside from stopping the use of single-use plastic bags, the biggest adjustment for grocery stores is the self-checkout section. For many stores, the checkout computer will prompt the customer with a question about whether they need paper bags and how many. Grocery stores will have staff on hand to help with the self-checkout stations, but this change will have a consumer self-regulation aspect to it as they decide how many paper bags they might need before checking out.

Stores like Fred Meyer also have been working out the kinks when it comes to weighing reusable bags at the start of the self-checkout process, said Melinda Merrill, a spokeswoman for Fred Meyer.

"When you put your bag on the scale at the beginning of the transaction, the computer knows it and asks you if you're using your own bag," Merrill said. "It may not be perfect all the time, but our employees have handheld devices that alert them to any problems so they can override it quickly."

The ban also means an uptick in reusable bag sales, which are already taking place in local stores. Haggen stores recently introduced locally designed bags, receiving input from Squalicum High School students and artwork from area students.

Glen Foresman, vice president of retail services at Haggen Inc., said reusable bag sales could at times be used as a fundraising tool, something they've done in the past with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Along with its own reusable bags, The Markets LLC recently introduced cardboard totes that hold four properly packed bags, providing stability for the groceries in cars. The company also introduced Chico reusable bags, which can be stuffed into a pocket.

While reusable bags sales are up, grocery stores are also putting in extra orders of paper bags. When the city of Edmonds banned plastic bags two years ago, one of the lessons learned from that was to have extra paper bags on hand at the beginning, said Foresman.

"After about two weeks, it became a non-event in Edmonds," Foresman said. "I think it will be the same thing here in Bellingham."

With areas like Edmonds and Seattle putting in similar plastic bag bans and the resulting publicity around it, awareness is expected to be less of an issue for Bellingham residents. Cole and Foresman also credited the group Bag It Bellingham with helping to get the word out about the upcoming ban.

"We think most of our customers are very aware of this (ban)," Foresman said.

The bag ban may come as a surprise to Canadian shoppers. Merrill said employees at the two Fred Meyer stores have expressed concern that Canadians aren't aware yet.

"There may be a bit of a surprise factor for the first few days," Merrill said, referring to Canadian visitors.

One of the initial challenges for customers is to remember to bring their bags, which is another reason stores will be stocking up on paper bags in the first few days.

"I think for the first week or two we'll get a lot of 'Oh, I left my bags in my car' type of comments," Cole said.

For further details about the Bellingham single-use plastic bag ban, including an extensive informational section for retailers, visit the city of Bellingham's website.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/07/29/2230046/grocery-stores-ready-as-bellingham.html#storylink=cpy

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