If slapping a fee on plastic grocery bags isn’t enough to deter people from using them, perhaps public shame might be.
In Vancouver, where a ban on plastics will phase in this year, one grocery store jumped the gun with a deterrent of its own: Plastic bags printed with slogans that are sure to humiliate the carrier, if the heft of environmental degradation is not already enough to do so.
It’s hard to always remember a reusable bag. We redesigned our plastic bags to help you never forget again.
Posted by East West Market on Thursday, June 6, 2019
East West Market, an independent grocery store that’s been around since 1996, is sending people who forget their reusable totes out with plastic bags festooned with custom statements, including “Dr. Toews Wart Ointment Wholesale,” “The Colon Care Co-op,” and “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium.” Below each is the reminder: “Avoid the shame. Bring a reusable bag.” To rub salt in the wound, East West Market charges people five cents per bag to attract a lot of awkward stares on their journey home.
Public shaming is one of the oldest tools to encourage swift behavior change, and that’s certainly what needs to happen when it comes to eliminating waste (and while warts, colon care, and weird adult videos aren’t anything to be ashamed about, that doesn’t mean you want to advertise them on your bag). David Lee Kwen, East West Market’s owner, told Vancouver is Awesome that: “We want to help customers remember their reusable bags in a way that will really stick with them.” And the double-takes you’ll experience as people both try to read what your bag is saying, and figure out why you’re carrying it, are sure to hammer the message home.
While East West has no plans to stop having the bags on offer for customers who show up without a reusable one, the hope is that they’ll eventually not have to hand them out. Plastic bags are consumed at an extraordinary rate–around one million per minute–and reducing demand for them is a top aim for many places. While numerous jurisdictions have, at this point, implemented either a full-out ban or a fee on plastic bags, this added layer of shame might be a missing ingredient in getting people to truly feel the burn of wrecking the environment.