Why Isn't Thrifty's Corny?

Back on Earth Day, Thrifty Foods announced it was discontinuing its use of plastic bags. It felt like greenwashing and I was skeptical. Plastic bags are made from petroleum by-products. They don't use oil-- they use the discards from the oil refining process. For the last couple years, plastic bags have been on par with devil worship or kitten juggling. Most people use plastic bags multiple times. While they are demonizing bags, SUVs are causing masses of pollution. All of the work re-road to accommodate traffic crippling and bicycles consumes massive amounts of asphalt made with (you guessed it), petroleum products. But let's pick on the plastic bags.
Thrifty's began selling durable plastic bags for less than $1 per. While the hated plastic bags occupy almost no volume and will eventually breakdown into general filth, these durable bags are built to last. Once they get into the landfill, they're going to be there, dotting the rubbish for years.
A few weeks ago, Thrifty's discontinued their plastic bags. They continued to offer paper bags which is a joke: they use 50 times more water per bag than plastic bag manufacturing and produce many more greenhouse gases than a plastic bag. To rub it in, with every purchase over $50, Thrifty's gives you a box of polyurethane garbage bags. What kind of message is that? We're discontinuing the practice of plastic bags but we're giving you a box of plastic bags? It's the Cleveland Steamer of customer incentives.
Last week, I was at the Red Barn market. They took my purchases and put them into a plastic bag. A WHAT? They used a plastic bag made from corn that decomposes and becomes organic fodder. Why didn't Thrifty's do this? Money. Thrifty Foods spent $600,000/year on plastic bags. Corn based bags cost approximately nine cents per bag. Plastic bags cost three cents per bag. They likely feared that tripling this budget item just to save the planet Earth was too much of a commitment. Thrifty's bet that they couldn't talk people into spending ten cents per bag so they went the other way. The upshot of the situation: no more lines at Thrifty's. Where before the beloved grocer had line-ups six customers deep at every register, now they have two customers per register or less. The aisles have a lot less bustle and day-old specials are easier to come by. If they surive this absence of customers, maybe Thrify's will take a more holistic view of their commitment to Green: abolish paper bags because of the envirnonmental damage they bring; stop pushing their environmentally intensive re-useable bags before the Hartland landfill looks like a sea of boxy duffle bags; and adopt corn-based bags like other local grocers.


Cheryl said…
This is a very good question. I am sure there are plenty of times I would pay 10 cents for a bag at the checkout.

There is a correction though; the freebie bags are for purchases over $60 and there is an official line of bumf that goes with it. From the flyer,

"While plastic grocery bags may also serve as garbage bags they still pile up under the sink faster than they can be used to bag waste.

These specially designed real kitchen garbage bags will help you keep your bag-to-garbage ratio more manageable and free up valuable space where you need it most"

I expect the managers all have that script memorized.
Lara said…
Those biodegradable bags still take an extremely long time to break down in a landfill. Maybe they should go with the 10 cent corn bags though, and charge the customer for them. I used to shop at a store in Ontario all the time that provided boxes instead and I used them happily.

What they really need to do is team up with the other stores and all offer the 10 cent bags, and boxes and reusable bags as an alternative. When I was in Ireland, I was surprised that they charge 33 cents for plastic bags (it's a tax there, since 2002). Everyone carried around their own reusable bags. They looked shocked when I asked for a plastic bag, because I didn't have my reusable bags on me that first time.
Ted Godwin said…
And then there are the really hard-core (like my sister) who argue against any sort of plastic bag use for garbage altogether. Yep, she wants to go back to the "good old days" where everything was just dumped into cans and we had to wash out our bins while keeping the rat and raccoon populations well-fed.

All this fuss over a product that represents app 1% of our total garbage. These are the same idiots who want to spend billions on pointless sewage treatment. What next I wonder? Perhaps a campaign to ban rubber soles on shoes?

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