By Nina Wu
Smart. Brilliant. À propos.
Target's move to offer customers no free bag at checkout at its Kahului, Maui and Kailua, Oahu stores on Wednesday was a logical step. On Maui, plastic checkout bags are banned. On Oahu, the plastic checkout ban goes into effect July 1. While the stores could have offered customers recyclable paper bags, the U.S.'s No. 2 discount chain opted to offer neither.
And you know what?
It's really no big deal. Costco shoppers already check out without bags. Why couldn't they do it at Target, another big-box retailer, as well?
For those of us who've already been bringing our own bags to shop for years, the response is – great! No big adjustment.
The Minneapolis-based retailer also offers customers 5-cents credit for each bag you bring in. That's better than Safeway next door, which offers nothing, although I do like their self checkout option. Whole Foods Market Kailua a block away offers 10-cents credit (and the checkout cashiers always say "thanks!").
Are there going to be some customers griping, while juggling loose items all the way to the car? Maybe.
The ubiquitous plastic checkout bags, which have been given away for free, are really not. There's an additional cost built into the overhead by businesses and there's an environmental cost that should be calculated as well. The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store, according to reuse it.com; the U.S. goes through about 100 billion single-use plastic bags at a cost of $4 billion to retailers a year. Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
Maybe it's time we stopped taking this convenience for granted.
And maybe big-box retailers like Target can play a role in this cultural shift. I did think it was smart for the retailer to offer a 99-cent reusable bag at checkout that customers could purchase —you have to wonder how many Target sold when people discovered they wouldn't be provided bags (Target gave them away for free on the first day).
Target has been offering the 5-cents credit for reusable bags since 2009, according to this USA Today article. Interestingly enough, the same article says that CVS (owner of Long's Drugs) offers participating customers $1 cash bonuses every four times they buy something but don't request plastic bags. I'm not sure whether this program is in effect at our local Long's Drugs. Cashiers there don't promote it.
By the way, in case you don't know, Honolulu's July 1 plastic bag ban will not allow businesses to provide plastic checkout bags, but will allow for reusable bags, compostable plastic bags and recyclable paper bags. There's still debate about how environmentally friendly compostable plastic bags really are. And paper, even recyclable, isn't necessarily better than plastic.
The ban will not cover bags for loose items like fruits, vegetables, frozen foods, takeout bags from fast food restaurants and lunch wagons, or newspaper bags.
What do you think? Was it a good move for Target to go bagless?