Photo: Oceans cannot digest plastic bags

Protect our oceans from plastic: choose reusable cloth bags (and line one trash can with a biodegradable bag).

Wake me up when this plastic bag nightmare is over. The Vancouver Sun says Thrifty Foods is going back to the plastic bag (after a two-year ban) because shoppers said the paper bag option sucked.

You know what sucks? Plastics in the ocean.

In 2010, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup scoured over 2,000 kilometres of waterfront all across our home and native land. Guess how many paper bags they picked up? Answer: they cleaned up 55,880 plastic bags! (Trick question.)

Only 19 more sleeps until my neighbouhood Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (join me at Kitsilano Beach). But this retailer decision based on "the customer is always right" model leaves me baffled. What if the customer is wrong?

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Come Halloween, Thrifty's says "We're going to assess the customer impact, the customer convenience and then make a decision." I think we already know what the customer impact will be — more plastic bag pollution.

I thought Canadians were bigger than the plastic bag.

Lots of us have switched to reusable cloth bags — with great success. But some are stumped when it comes to lining household garbage pails. My suggestion: go garbage bag-less. Since you're recycling and composting, most household trash is dry and doesn't need a liner. Focus on making smarter purchases and reduce waste in the first place. If you must have a liner, use one biodegradable bag in the kitchen garbage pail.

What would you suggest Thrifty's (or any retailer) do to help their customers switch to reusable cloth bags? Why did you switch?

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

P.S. Support retailers that share your values. And let those who don't know how you feel.

August 28, 2011

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Apr 13, 2015
7:22 PM

Dear Queen of Green,

Help! I’m drowning in plastic bags! I have the good intention of going plastic-less, but it’s a lot harder than it looks, especially when you’re in a hurry and it’s really important, and oh dang, you forgot your reusable tote bag again!

Oh Queen, how can I embark on moving toward a plastic-free home and lifestyle in one year? I hope you can help me. (I looked under my kitchen cupboard and found clouds of crumpled plastic bags. I was horrified!) Please help!

Apr 14, 2015
9:28 PM

Hi Timothy,

That is an understandable concern and I am sure many people can relate. What I do is keep a tote bag in my purse, or work bag and one at work! Keeping them in central places makes it less of a hassle to have to always remember to bring one with you when you are on the go. If you find that doesn’t work and you end up with a pile of bags in your cupboards, certain grocery chain stores offer plastic recycling services where you can take your plastic bags to be recycled.

Jennifer Queen of Green Coach

Nov 25, 2013
10:53 PM


Jun 28, 2012
9:23 PM

I am going to go pick up on the West Coast beaches 2 nd week of August. Anybody want to come along? Tsunami debris is here now. I an looking for connection to others who are also concerned about this. The following are important points (please add to them)  - keeping from doing more harm.    Training, hasmat handling, sensitivity to artifacts.  - logistics to remove the debris to recycling centers  - coordination and sustainability of the effort.  - having fun  - recording and posting the results   (photographs, video, weight/volume of debris

Sep 09, 2011
3:51 PM

I have been a long-time Thrifty Foods shopper, and their stance on plastic bags was a big reason I loved their store. I always bring my own bags, but I appreciated that across the board, the store wasn't putting more disposable plastic bags into the environment. I'm extremely disappointed to read this.

Having said that, I don't think that Thrifty's — or any other single store — can bear the full brunt of creating change. The challenge for them as a store is that other stores still offer plastic bags. If they're losing customers over their decision, they're in a tough spot.

I think that what's needed is a broad, across-the-board plastic bag ban. If municipalities, provinces, or (dare to dream!) countries ban them, then people will be forced to find alternatives. They'll put systems in place to help them remember their bags, just as they remember their wallets or their shoes. Change may not be convenient, but I really believe people are capable of it. And after a short time, they won't even remember that they did it any other way.

Sep 07, 2011
10:22 AM

I agree with the biodegradable liner idea for the inside kitchen garbage pail. As for shopping, a cloth bag is preferable.

Sep 04, 2011
6:02 PM

A grocery store in my area doesn't even have plastic bags to buy….(others charge 5 cents a bag) Instead the front of the store just passed the checkouts are lined with boxes they have received shipments in. It's a great way for the store to get rid of their extra cardboard and for shoppers to carry home their purchases. There really is no reason not to carry a cloth bag with you. Stick it in your purse, trunk, etc and you will always have it on hand.

Sep 01, 2011
1:30 PM

@Stephanie … Thank you so much for efforts to help reduce the amount of plastic bags. Good luck with your incentive ! Kim

Aug 31, 2011
10:18 PM

Where can I recycle plastic bags? Not all grocery stores have recycle bins for their plastic bags.

Aug 31, 2011
2:51 PM

Get rid of the plastic bag indeed!!! I am currently trying to get the store I work at to introduce cloth re-usable bags. An incentive for people to buy them we thought was offer them 10% off of their purchases whenever they use their cloth bag in the store. When we get these bags, hopefully that will be enough of a deal that people will remember to use them!!

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