EXPERT COLUMN: Top 8 Ways Grocers Can Survive Plastic Bag Bans


All over the country, plastic shopping bags are being outlawed in grocery stores and other retail outlets. Fees are being imposed on all shoppers who do not bring their own bags. Plastic is no longer an available option at the checkout counter except at stores that carry thicker, certifiable reusable plastic bags.

It's a steep adjustment period for shoppers when they hit the check-out line, so here are a few ways grocers can survive the switch away from t-shirt style plastic bags:

1. Have a plan on how to prepare your customer for this change. Post signs and counter toppers that provide your customer with a clear set of choices for their carry bags options.

2. Know that initially most customers will not be happy. Many of your customers will be confused by this new policy and will want to know why.

3. Brief your staff on how to respond to customers. Create concise scripts so employees will know how to best respond.

4. When asked what is the "best choice," be prepared to answer with confidence: Paper or Plastic? At the cost of 10 cents, there are only two choices – one is single-use and one is reusable.

5. Have a strategy to encourage reuse and recycling. Showing your understanding and support for the ordinance will help put your customers at ease.

6. Provide your customers fun strategies to remind them to bring in their bags. Encourage customers to keep bags in their car, by the front door or near their car keys as a good visual reminder to take them to your store.

7. Don’t put meat or liquid in reusable woven or sewn bags. The reason, the pores in these bags hold bacteria easily. Generally, people don't wash woven bags, which is why they have been proven to spread the flu and other illnesses.

8. Encourage recycling of bags when they reach the end of their use. This will help create a closed-loop system similar to Europe where as much as 90 percent of all plastic is recycled and is not buried in a landfill. This will put you at the center of the solution and well-positions your brand.

Bag bans are intended to force shoppers to change some of their habits, which puts you and your business in the cross hairs of frustration. Using these tips will hopefully make life easier for you but especially your customer – by keeping in mind that not all bags are created equal. Being a part of the smarter solution benefits your business in goodwill and loyalty from your customers.

Pete Grande is CEO of Command Packaging and Encore Recycling, a new venture in Salinas, Calif., that aims to remove 100 million pounds of Ag plastic from landfills annually to create bag ban-compliant plastic bags.

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