Environmenally Responsible Retail Packaging Tips
Environmentally Responsible Packaging Tips
by Keith Lee, President, American Retail Supply
We certainly understand our responsibility as a provider of the packaging you use in your store, but like most issues, this is not black and white. In fact, we’ll be exploding a number of retail packaging myths in regards to the environment.
Here’s the first myth and you’re likely to find it almost unbelievable based on “common knowledge”. You know the new reusable “canvas-type" bags you see for sale all over. First off, if you’re interested in them, we are a very good source. We’ve been providing them to all types of businesses for around 6 years. You can see them here .
I would love these reusable bags to be the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to environmentally responsible packaging. Again, we’re a great source for these.
Here’s the shocker when it comes to using these reusable “canvas-type" bags
When Ireland imposed a tax on “disposable plastic” bags that virtually eliminated the use of plastic bags in the country, their intent was that consumers would use the reusable “canvas” type bags. That is what happened, but this also happened:
- The overall use of plastic bags in the country increased!
- Shoplifting increased
- The average retailer now loses 450 hand-carry shopping baskets each year
- While researching the expansion of the Irish bag tax to other parts of the UK, the government- funded Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found that the levy on plastic bags in Ireland only made matters worse. This tax implemented in Ireland in the late 1990’s has not been implemented anywhere else in the UK.
Click here for a complete discussion of this bag tax issue and the explanation why plastic bag use actually increases from this.
For more information about plastic bags and the environment go to www.carrierbagtax.com .
When You Provide Your Customers with Bags that
They will Reuse, You're Being Responsible
by Keith Lee, President, American Retail Supply
When a bag tax was imposed in Ireland, the use of plastic bags actually increased because people now need to buy extra , thicker bags that use more resources for trash can liners, diaper bags, pooper scoopers, lunch sacks and all kinds of other needs.
When you provide a bag that has a secondary use, you’re doing your part to be green. Here’s another example:
Many uninformed people would simply not get the positive environmental impact of this . Lots of our good clients in
southeast Alaska provide their
customers with a very nice
thick printed plastic bag. The uninformed would
is a waste. The reality, most shoppers at these store
come off the cruise ships and these bags are so strong
and so the printing is so cool that they use them over and
over again while on the cruise and even when they get home.
And our clients get continual advertising for their stores.
At our house, when we get a nice paper shopping bag it
goes in the closet in the hallway. When were going to visit
family or friends we use these bags to haul food, wine, clothes,
all kinds of stuff and I’ll bet you do the same.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you need to provide
a high end plastic or paper bag in order to provide your customer
with a great second-use bag. Inexpensive high density plastic
bags are a great second, third, etc. reuse bag. We use them
as trash can liners and pooper scoopers at our house.
My tip for the day: Rather than feel guilty because the media
continues to only look at the negative, feel positive about
providing your customers with a bag that make shopping
convenient and can be used again to save the production of
another bag. Then educate both your clerks and your customers
about the service you provide.
Bags - A Tiny Fraction of Sea Trash
When the Mayor of Seattle’s office staff held an informational meeting for those in the industry the day before the Mayor announced that he wanted to tax, to the point of eliminating, disposable paper and plastic bags used by retailers; the Mayor’s staff stated that, while they know that plastic bags are a tiny part of the litter problem, the perception is that they are a large part of the problem... and litter was one of their most important reasons for imposing this tax!
I could go on and on about how ethical it is for politicians to reinforce issues that they know are untrue, but they are politicians. I truly am sorry to say this. I really try to be a positive person. The fact is, I have been involved in a couple political issues in the past and the truth seems to be irrelevant to many politicians.
Here’s something else the Mayor in Seattle won’t be telling you. Bags are a Tiny Fraction of Sea Trash
Article by Danny Westneat – Seattle Times I figured if anyone would jump for joy at Seattle's crusade against plastic bags, it would be the flotsam guy. Maybe you've heard of Curt Ebbesmeyer. He's considered one of the world's leading oceanic garbologists (though, as he jokes, how many can there be?). From his basement in Ravenna, he uses beachcomber reports to track the comings and goings of floating sea trash. Like dozens of rat-poison canisters that washed onto Washington shores this spring. Or computer monitors, which "always float screen up, eyes peering out of the waves."
An oceanographer, he also named the Earth's most shameful man-made feature, the "great Eastern garbage patch." That's a Texas-sized soup of plastic junk, swirling in floating clouds across the Pacific between us and Hawaii. It's such a huge and indestructible soiling of the sea that Ebbesmeyer feels bad he dubbed it only a "patch."
"It's trash that will never go away, stretching across the water farther than you can see," Ebbesmeyer says. "It would absolutely horrify you to see it." So when I asked him what he thought of Seattle's plan to crack down on disposable grocery bags, I was surprised when he sort of shrugged.
"It's OK, but plastic bags are not the real problem," he said. "It's one little battle out of a million. Go look at what the ocean carries in on a given day. You'll see what I mean." Last month, Ebbesmeyer held a "Dash for Trash" in Ocean Shores. In two hours, 50 people collected an astonishing 2,000 pounds of junk from the beach. Almost all of it was plastic — from fishing floats to shotgun shells to dolls from Japan. Yet very little of it was the plastic bags targeted by Seattle.
I did my own garbology "dig" at low tide in Seattle's Myrtle Edwards Park. In half an hour poking along 300 yards of shoreline, I found a demoralizing 173 pieces of trash. Take out the wood (paintbrush), the metal (beer cans, foil wrappers) and the miscellaneous (earplugs, nicotine patches, ropes, a corncob, an orange traffic cone), and I was left with 137 pieces of plastic.
Top item, by far: Plastic bottles. Followed by plastic bottle caps. Then plastic lids and plastic cups. Plus a slew of plastic food packaging. Number of plastic grocery or drugstore bags? One.
Are Biodegradable Plastic Bags The Solution?
Corn-starched based plastic bags are biodegradable, but , this like most issues involving Green packaging, is not the simple answer that it might seem. The only reason you would want to have a plastic bag that decomposes is if the bag ends up as litter. I’ll get to why a biodegradable/decomposable plastic bag is not necessarily a great idea below.
We saw above that plastic bags are a very very small part of sea litter. The same is true of litter on land. As I mentioned before the Mayor’s office was right up front with us at the meeting before his announcement when they said, “We know plastic bags are not a significant part of the litter problem, but the public perception is that they are.”
Steven E. Hamilton for The Environmental Affairs Council reports that cigarette butts, chewing gum, and candy wrappers account for about 95% of all litter in the English-speaking world. I have looked at study after study and the best data says that plastic bags make up about 0.07% - 0.5% of litter.
Why Don’t You Want a Biodegradable Plastic Bag?
I see my job as providing you, the retailer, with options. It’s up to you to decide which of those options you take.
Again, if they end up as litter, biodegradable is a good idea, but very, very few end up as litter. Plastic Bags are Recyclable and in Fact are Very Valuable as a Recycled Product.
So here is the problem with biodegradable plastic bags. They cannot be recycled and if you mix them with recyclable plastic bags the entire lot is not recyclable!
Rather than playing on consumers’ fears, responsible politicians need to help get that message, and support curbside recycling of plastic bags. If you as a consumer simply put all of your plastic bags inside one bag each week, you will create a very valuable recyclable product. The real problem is that plastic bags are such a small part of the waste stream that it is not worth it for those going through your recycling bin to pick out the bags one by one!
Another solution is to simply take them to your neighborhood Safeway store. This is not rocket science. We simply need some responsible politicians to step up.
What about if they end up in landfills? Isn’t biodegradable good for that?
The fact is, landfills are designed and managed so that garbage does not degrade . Degrading garbage in landfills is the problem. In fact, modern landfills a re lined with layer upon layer of, you guessed it – plastic sheeting so that the things that do degrade don’t leak out. Neither paper bags nor plastic degrade in a modern landfill.
I believe the best solutions for environmentally responsible retailers are:
1. Use a bag that is likely to have a second or third, or … use by your customer.
2. Use a bag that is recyclable
3. Use a bag that contains recycled content
4. Educate your customers.
If you are interested in biodegradable bags, give us a call at 800-426-5708. Then educate your customers that when they get the bag from you, they should be sure that it ends up in their compost pile.