Walmart Tries Plastic Bag Ban, But Will Public Buy In?

With the proposed assembly bill, AB1998, California is on the verge of a total ban on disposable plastic grocery bags, and a fee on paper bags. If passed, the ban wouldn’t kick in until July, 2011, but Walmart has been doing some test runs on its own.

As part of itsĀ Plastic Bag Initiative, Walmart tested out a total ban on plastic bags at three California stores last January. The stores were picked to participate based on earlier tests among customers that suggested a favorable demographic. In the tests, all plastic bags were completely banned, and two types of reusable bags were offered for sale (small and large) at 15 cents and 50 cents each. The bright blue bags are made of a washable polypropylene material and are said to last about 75 uses each.

If you read the comments on The Sacramento Bee’s coverage of the experiment, you might think the world was coming to an end — the most hilarious were a string of comments predicting a massive salmonella outbreak. But regardless of the barrage of negativity and proclamations of the dawn of socialism, KCRA’s informal survey showed a majority of shoppers expressing more positive sentiments about a bag ban.

If AB1998 is passed some vocal shoppers may kick and scream, but the measure might actually end up saving money for all involved in the long run. Grocers will no longer have to supply bags at their own expense, and shoppers will have some one-time expenses – though hopefully for larger and higher quality bags than the little blue ones at Walmart, which, at least for the test run in January, were actually oil-based. Whether the environment benefits may also depend on the quality and materials of whatever bags wind up in the hands of consumers.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.