Here’s How a Plastic Bag Ban Can Work with Grocery Stores like Giant Eagle

Pittsburgh is one step closer to a ban on single use plastic bags. The bill will be up for a final vote at the Tuesday, April 12 meeting, and if passed will go into effect on April 12, 2023.

Essentially, you will have to pay $.10 per paper bag or bring your own bag/box/etc. One weakness is shopping curbside – the items arrive at your car in bags. How can reusable bags be incorporated?

Back in 2019, I proposed this solution for local grocery stores or any retailer/restaurant that will need to find a replacement for plastic bags.

As you may recall, I founded the Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project. Between 2011-2013, we redirected over 40,000 bags from the community to Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Maybe we need to revisit that project?

  • The bags. Here’s my very big idea.
    • Set up a reusable bag deposit system. The bags they sell for $1.00 cost them about $.50. So they add a deposit to the process – $5.00 for ten bags. The items are delivered in the bags. To get my deposit credit back to my account, I have to return all 10 bags to the shopper who delivers my next order.
    • Now, Giant Eagle cannot reuse those bags per Health Department standards BUT they can donate those bags to an organization like 412 Food Rescue (or the food bank) to be used by people accessing food supports. Giant Eagle gets a tax credit for the donation and gets even more of their bags with their branding into the community. Alternatively, I can keep my bags and use them for my own purposes.
    • Giant Eagle encourages reusable bags and reduces waste. This will require coordination with the shoppers, paperwork, etc so it is not a zero cost effort, but the unclaimed deposits can help reduce that cost.
    • Giant Eagle saves money on the plastic and paper bags they use now which can be used to help subsidize this.
    • Any retailer can do this. Obviously it would be more popular at big retailers that we visit often and not so much at smaller businesses or those we patronize only occasionally. But it can still work. Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce or every the City can produce reusable bags for these businesses and smooth the way for the donation to the food pantries and banks.

Think of how people used to pay deposits on glass bottles. And kids would scrounge the unreturned bottles for cash. It is the same model.

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I’d personally rather pay a deposit for a tote bag than a fee for a paper bag. I am also confident that the bags would pile up at my house until I finally decide to return them – I have no illusions about my efficiency. Still, I do make a monthly run to recycle plastic bags so I can easily see doing that with a pile of reusable shopping bags. And if I return them using my Advantage card to get the credit, bam. win/win, right? Or I take the hit on the deposit and just donate the bags directly to my local food pantry.

tote bags food bank


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  • You wrote, ” I do make a monthly run to recycle plastic bags.”

    Did it ever occur to you that the ecological footprint cost of this monthly trip might be bigger than the ecological benefit that comes from recycling those plastic bags?

    Did you know that there is video evidence which shows that a lot of “recycled” plastic actually ends up getting dumped onto the ground, where it could eventually end up getting blown or washed into the rivers and oceans?

    Did you know that some landfills, when full, get turned into parks?

    A lot of plastic “recycling” is a scam. The environment would be better off if we put that plastic waste into landfills, and then turned those landfills into parks.

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