Reusable Shopping Bags, Will Walmart Lead the Way for Consumers?

plastic bag fee

Reusable Shopping Bags and Consumers, Will Walmart Lead The Way?

Reusable shopping bags are gaining in popularity with everyone from consumers to marketing execs. This uptick in the use of reusable shopping bags is largely due to laws regulating disposable plastic bags like the new California bag ban and certified reusable grocery bags requirement under the California Public Resources Code (Sections 42281, 42281.5, and 42282).

Problems Caused by Single-Use Plastic Bags Well Documented

From using non renewable resources like natural gas and oil, to the likelihood of single-use plastic bags ending up as litter entering our food chain or sitting in a landfill forever, we must stop their use. The resulting environmental issues make it no secret that disposable plastic bags are bad news.

Typically, when bag bans or fees come about it is from a concern for the environment. The logic is by eliminating single-use plastic bags, the negative ramifications will also be eliminated. A recent post I found on my friend Ted Rubin’s website, which I believe was written originally by his best friend, my acquaintance and Walmart insider,  John Andrews, outlines how Walmart could easily help their bottom line and the planet, while also getting more people to switch to reusable shopping bags than ever before.

The Effectiveness of Disposable Plastic Bag Fees

The entire philosophy behind Walmart’s pricing structure is offering low prices right? This strategy has proven to be very lucrative. Low prices are enough of an incentive to get shoppers in the door, but Walmart offers many shoppers the ability to do most, if not all, of their shopping in one place, so convenience and availability of products is also a compelling reason to shop there.

The so-called free disposable plastic bags handed out at the checkout are not really free. Their cost is worked into the prices, so customers are paying for the single-use bags, but they do not appear as a line item. Here’s the thing, if Walmart were to charge a bag fee for each disposable plastic bag handed out, they would likely drive a majority of their customers to bring their own reusable shopping bags.

If fewer plastic bags were handed out, that would mean Walmart could cut back on the quantities they purchase, which would save them money. They would also collect revenue in the form of bag fees from shoppers who continue to use plastic bags, even if it would mean an extra charge. Charging a plastic bag fee would likely also increase sales of reusable bags, further helping Walmart’s bottom line.

Taking Walmart Everyday Low Prices to New Lows

Eliminating disposable plastic bags could possibly allow Walmart to lower their already low prices even more. If they are not purchasing these bags to hand out, there would no longer be a reason to work this expense into their pricing structure. They could cut their prices to further incentivize shoppers. This means more customers may stop in to do their shopping. Existing customers who maybe get some items at Walmart, but go to competitors for other items, make the switch and do all of their shopping at Walmart.

Walmart Canada is Being the Change

Walmart Canada implemented a 5-cent per bag fee that became effective on February 9, 2016. This measure is intended to help the company achieve their goal of going zero waste. To date specifics about how many disposable plastic bags have been given out and the total money raised by the fee has not been made available.

If this bag fee works for Walmart Canada, that will be a good indicator that it will also work in other stores. We really hope Walmart in the U.S. is keeping on eye on what is happening with the California bag ban and at the stores in Canada, and considers implementing a similar fee here.

Get Factory Direct Pricing on Reusable Grocery Bags.


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