Archive for Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Merc says goodbye to plastic bags

April 6, 2011


Brian Phillips, store operations manager at The Merc, stands with a collection of 60 plastic bags, the average number of bags a family of four gathers in one month. At the request of the food cooperative's owners, the store will no longer offer plastic bags for packing groceries.

Brian Phillips, store operations manager at The Merc, stands with a collection of 60 plastic bags, the average number of bags a family of four gathers in one month. At the request of the food cooperative's owners, the store will no longer offer plastic bags for packing groceries.

“Paper or plastic?” will soon become a question of the past for those who shop at The Merc, 901 Iowa.

By Earth Day, April 22, the community food cooperative will no longer provide plastic bags. The change comes at the request of shoppers, who when surveyed overwhelming said they want to see the bags gone, store operations manager Brain Phillips said.

Don’t worry; shoppers won’t be asked to haul out armfuls of groceries to their car. The store will still provide paper bags (ones that are made of a 100-percent recycled fiber and have the Forest Stewardship Council seal of approval), and there is a supply of recycled cardboard boxes near the check-out lane that can also be used.

So why are plastic bags so bad? Well, here’s a look at some of the numbers:

100 billion to 1 trillion

An estimate of how many shopping bags are manufactured across the world yearly.

100 years

An estimate of how long it takes a plastic bag to decompose.


Average number of plastic bags a family of four collects in one month.


Percentage of plastic bags taken to recycling centers.


Pieces of plastic found floating in each square mile of the ocean, according to a 2006 United Nations Report.


Plastic bags’ ranking in a list of 43 different types of refuse found in the ocean. Cigarette butts were the most common, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

5 cents

The discount The Merc provides to customers who bring their own reusable bags.

Last year, The Merc gave a discount for more than 210,000 reusable bags, a total of more than $10,000.


Percentage of Merc customers who bring their own bags.


kernal 6 years, 7 months ago

The Merc and Hy-Vee had affordable bags under $2.00 last time I checked, which was two weeks ago.

Blessed4x 6 years, 7 months ago

Wal-Mart sells them for a dollar, but they're evil, right?

ivalueamerica 6 years, 7 months ago

How much do you wanna bet that the low low priced bags at WalMart were made by young children in a third world country working 75 hours a week for less than a dollar a day?

But as long as you save a few pennies, no skin off your back.

You are beautiful.

lawslady 6 years, 7 months ago

Good to know: (from your link). "The evidence from multiple scientific studies have demonstrated that plastic disposable bags are less harmful to the environment than disposable paper bags. Plastic bags consume less water and energy to produce and create less waste if disposed in a land fill. Plastic bags are also more likely to be reused.[2] Despite the ability to be composted, paper bags actually emit substantial amounts of green house gases to compost, which counteracts their benefits. Overall, if consumers want to be environmentally conscious shoppers, a reusable sack rather than a disposable bag is a better choice. There would be 6 Kg less green house gases emitted per year, about 53 Megawatts of energy saved, and seven liters of water saved per year for each household that switched from disposable to reusable bags.[4] However, if you need a disposable bag, the more “environmentally friendly” option is a plastic bag. " Is there any study to the contrary? In this age of information over-load, it seems like one can always find something that says one thing, and then 10 others that says the opposite.

deec 6 years, 7 months ago

Using less of a nonrenewable resource is a good thing. Reusable bags are better than paper. Just because the predominant social standard is wastefulness doesn't make it right. My grandparents, and maybe yours, knew this. They were frugal and thought wastefulness was morally repugnant. They lived by the adage "Use it up,wear it out, make it do, or do without."

Kat Christian 6 years, 7 months ago

Well that doesn't make a whole lot of sense especially when you are required to put your trash out in plastic bags which I refuse to buy just to throw away so I use the plastic grocery bags I get at the store since they don't give out paper bags anymore. Before plastic bags were born to grocery stores we used paper bags and that is what we used to put our trash in, until the 'tree huggers' complained too many trees were downed just to make those bags. (Can't win) So now we are back to bags (which is fine - but I still refuse to buy plastic trash bags just to throw away), but now we'll have to deal with the tree people again, which I agree I hate seeing so many trees cut down. Will there ever be a solution? Maybe we can just line up bins with swinging doors on them in front of our houses or the end of each street where people can seperate their trash and once a week trucks empty those bins. Call it the recylce garden at the end of each block. Then we can do away with plastic trash bag companies.

Phil Minkin 6 years, 7 months ago

Yes you can win. Did you miss: " The store will still provide paper bags (ones that are made of a 100-percent recycled fiber and have the Forest Stewardship Council seal of approval)"?

missmagoo 6 years, 7 months ago

Last year, The Merc gave a discount for more than 210,000 reusable bags, totally more than $10,000.

----> totaling?

I do like the reusable bags but I would need 15 of them every time I go to the store, at least! Recycled paper it is! :)

funkdog1 6 years, 7 months ago

Buy a couple of reusable bags at a time until you have 15. That's the way we did it. Sometimes you can find them on sale for only 99 cents.

deec 6 years, 7 months ago

Thrift stores or making your own are other options.

Kat Christian 6 years, 7 months ago

I have several - only thing I keep forgeting to bring them into the store with me. So I just end of getting plastic bags anyways. I will use them sometimes if I remember to bring them in.

deec 6 years, 7 months ago

It's just a matter of getting into the habit.I had to go back out to the car many times before I remembered all the time. If you use a purse, there are some bags that fold really small that you could tuck into your purse.

madameX 6 years, 7 months ago

You'd be surprised. I started using reusable bags because I had a collection of promotional ones I'd gotten various places, and I was sick of having to deal with all the plastic bags I had after grocery trips. One of the unexpected benefits is that they hold way more. They're generally roomier, so you can put more items in, and sturdier, so you can put several heavy items in one bag. A grocery trip that would have required 10-12 plastic bags usually fills up four or five of the reusable ones.

Jake Esau 6 years, 7 months ago

I prefer the reusable bags over plastic or paper. They can hold a lot more, they don't rip and tear, and can be neatly organized in a grocery cart or car trunk (unlike the plastic bag blobs). The only bad thing is remembering to carry them into the store from my car...

somedude20 6 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

workinghard 6 years, 7 months ago

Use the plastic wrapper the newspaper comes in. I see a lot of people carry the plastic shopping bag when they walk their dog. I guess they can use it as an excuse not to clean up after the dog because they probably don't take the paper.

Matt Needham 6 years, 7 months ago

I use reusable bags, but I like the idea of offering the cardboard boxes the store stock came in. I wish all grocery stores had that option.

Centerville 6 years, 7 months ago

Good thing HyVee is now carrying the odd items that I used to get at the Merc.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 7 months ago

I've heard that plastic uses less resources and I've heard the same for paper. I just know that using paper makes me feel better. That said, I still use canvas bags when I remember to bring them and I think it's great that the Merc. is getting rid of plastic.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 7 months ago

To: The-Big-B I counted four of your posts where to criticized the opinions of others while slipping in a little insult and not offering a better idea. Is it the insult that makes you feel better or do you simply not have anything constructive to say? Either way, perhaps you should consider changing your name to "the little b".

gccs14r 6 years, 7 months ago

Too bad we're not permitted to grow hemp for paper products.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 7 months ago

People ask me what do I mean when stating Libs are taking away our rights. Most think modern liberalism runs parallel with the old fashioned 60s type.

Hard to see personal rights going away. Every once in a while you see some Lib politician paying respects to the old libs. Mostly shouting down the anti abortion crowd. Do not be mislead, your freedoms are being feltched.

LIbs have learned little things like the use of plastic first for shopping, later for trash will be eliminated as a choice. Then one day we may be surprised to find plastic banned in all forms.

I firmly believe a car trip, or even less but still the fun Sunday drive will be a thing of the past. The freedom of the internet, DDT, hunting, the freedom of keeping your health to yourself, oh my are we going down a bad path.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

So---you want to take away The Merc's right to not use plastic? Not really following your line of thinking here.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 7 months ago

The line of thinking is simply this. Starts one place then becomes legislation. Oh, they banned plastic bags, they must be bad. Maybe we should pass an ordinance.

This is exactly what happened to DDT. Now after millions upon millions have perished from diseases thought almost irradiated we are taking another look at using the banned substance.

Yes, I guess plastic bags are a poor example, but one thing leads to another.

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

Don't worry, I'm sure you will be able to practice your, um, "right" to a plastic bag by shopping at only about a gazillion other stores around the country.

woodscolt 6 years, 7 months ago

Wow, is that paranoia or what. How can you turn a plastic bag into all that. Thats just nutty.

I guess missouri passed a law requiring voters to have id's and now they are trying to require that you must speak english to get an ID. Thats kinda nutty to but its true. Thats quite a fantasy you have concocted out of a plastic bag . oh well, to each his own I guess.

akuna 6 years, 7 months ago

Seriously? I think someone woke up on the wrong side of the cuckoo clock.

woodscolt 6 years, 7 months ago

Thats great news! Don't shop at the merc much but I actually reuse paper bags for purposes that plastic bags just don't work for. At least they put handles on their bags. I like aldi's policy. we got no bags period.

Bill Lee 6 years, 7 months ago

There are more trees in this country than at any time in history. This is because they are grown to be made into paper. There are too few old trees, but that's another discussion.

Eddie Muñoz 6 years, 7 months ago

Where'd that stat come from? I would imagine there are fewer trees here than there were when Columbus came ashore.

But perhaps you meant in the history of the US. I would still have a hard time believing that, though.

sulliedotcom 6 years, 7 months ago

There are actually more trees today than there were when Christopher and Columbus "discovered" America. Native Americans ended up cutting down most of the supply of trees that originally existed in North America.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

When I was a child, our groceries used to be packed in the cardboard boxes that the goods had come in. They are just going to be disassembled and recycled (hopefully) anyway. They work better than any bags---they stand up and don't break.

I think it hasn't been all that long that either plastic or paper bags were available. People took their baskets or whatever with them to carry their groceries in. Or maybe that just happened in the movies.

AnnieM 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm glad the Merc is eliminating plastic bags, and I hope other groceries follow suit.
Here is a short, fun music video that explains why getting rid of plastic is a good thing.

hwarangdo 6 years, 7 months ago

Some countries and entire cities have banned plastic bags. It is nice to see The Merc take this step. Reusable bags are inexpensive and last a long time. Just keep 'em in the trunk or hang 'em on the doorknob and you'll have them handy. It is time we start thinking about the impact of plastic bags. One can whine and argue defending plastic bags, but why bother? Just buy the reusable bags - canvas, cloth, string bags - they come in cool colors and shapes too. Cheers for the Merc for this admirable step!

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

Does the Merc sell Glad garbage bags?

dogsandcats 6 years, 7 months ago

When I was a kid, we used the paper grocery bags to cover our school textbooks. Then promptly drew all over them.

woodscolt 6 years, 7 months ago

sorry one eye, but I don't think your idea is gonna take off no matter how many times you punch the button. Not many people are thinking about old clothes in the dumpster when they are at the grocery store. But who am I to say.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 7 months ago

Back in the day on Maine street, the Merc used to have a Free box for folks to drop of and take clothes. Eventually the health inspector didn't like it and shut it down.

madameX 6 years, 7 months ago

Make yourself a shopping bag out of the jersey knit that t-shirts are made of (or the tulle netting that tutus are made out of, since you brought them up) and see how well that works out for you. Not all fabrics are well-suited to becoming shopping bags.

That said, you probably could make some $$$ selling cute shopping bags made out of recycled fabrics.

Sincerely, A Person Who Knows How To Sew

pocket_of_sunshine 6 years, 7 months ago

Not sure what you are mad about, but every time you say slumlord I think of a fat man in gross, dirty clothes with a cigar counting money in his ratty recliner. Too many movies for me. Still, I LOL every time.

camper 6 years, 7 months ago

Re-usable bags work the best for me. No joke intended here, but Pacific Islanders might be glad to hear of this trend.

thadrosen 6 years, 7 months ago

Checkers gives a ten cent bag refund when you reuse paper and/or cloth bags. They also sell the canvas cloth bags for 99 cents. Love my Checkers!

Flap Doodle 6 years, 7 months ago

Dear ghostie posties, your attempts to disrupt this award-winning forum are amusing. You should go get a refreshment now and go back to your usual spamming.

woodscolt 6 years, 7 months ago

fell for that award winning alibi hook line and sinker don't you think snap. Who better to blame than an invisible person

woodscolt 6 years, 7 months ago

whats with one eyes 13 posts. might be something to that

deec 6 years, 7 months ago

"According to the New York Times, the 100 billion bags used per year in America require an estimated 12 million barrels of oil in their production. Since approximately 25 percent of plastic bags used in the west are made in Asia, more fossil fuels have to be used to transport the bags to their destination."

Read more:

Michael Lindsey 6 years, 7 months ago

I was in the middle of nowhere in the Sinai and down this one valley, there were dozens of plastic water bottles tossed away. They're a bigger problem than plastic grocery bags. Secondly, why bother about bags when so many items are wrapped in plastic: check out your gallon of milk, or package of bologna, etc.

speak_up 6 years, 7 months ago

Why would we ignore one problem just because there is another one that also merits attention? That is grade-school logic. Work on solutions to one problem, then the next, then the next. That's how things get done. Anyway ,as it says in the article, plastic bags are the second leading type of refuse in the ocean (not bottles). If you wonder how a plastic bag in Kansas can get to the ocean, go take a look at all of the plastic bags along the rivers and creeks in this area. Moral of the story is simple: take steps to reduce your consumption of plastic IN ANY WAY POSSIBLE instead of making excuses for your own laziness.

seriouscat 6 years, 7 months ago

In the summer we just bring a cooler in.

Don't buy those 'hot/cold" bags...they will fall apart on you.

somedude20 6 years, 7 months ago

Nice!!!!! Good job! You should go help the Govt. to get their house in order than pay a vist to the NFL

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

I couldn't have purchased Lehman Brothers stocks a year ago, they went bankrupt in 2008. Why would you write of something in the present tense when it is old news? This got me thinking that perhaps this isn't your information.

Sure enough, you didn't write this -- it was written in late 2008:

You really shouldn't plagiarize so blatantly.

Kat Christian 6 years, 7 months ago

Again with waste: Bought some pills and when I opened the package to get the bottles out the box the little bottle came in was 3 times larger than the bottle itself and the pills that were in the bottle were just enough to cover the bottom of it. Talk about waste. Now all that paper will go into the trash. Essentially I bouth more waste then I did the actually product. This is what I keep yelping about. Government needs to call on the carpet the manufacturers who box, wrap and carton product to cut down on over packaging all for the sake of marketing to sell their product. I realice this is a free market place but why should consumers be forced to take most of the responsibily and cost of recycling when it is the manufactuers responsible for generating it? When they step up to the plate than I will do my part otherwise I maintain ONE trashcan in my house and everything goes into it.

Kris_H 6 years, 7 months ago

In the plastic vs paper green debate, there is one thing that makes the difference for me--I've never seen a picture of a sea creature choked on a paper bag, nor have I seen videos of humongous floating masses of paper bags bobbing in the ocean. Nor have I seen paper bags hanging in my trees. Give me paper. They make great holders for carrying newspapers to recycle, and then you use them again, and when they tear you can recycle them too.

I definitely agree that manufacturers should pay more attention to minimizing packaging all the way around. And quit shipping me stuff in those vile styrofoam peanuts!

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

Didn't see your post before I posted below. Yes, those styrofoam peanuts are truly vile!

And why does a small electronic gadget (phone, broadband thumb drive modem, etc) have to be shipped in a box 100 times its size which is then double boxed in something one thousand times its size with styrofoam padding in both?

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

I do have to agree with the Lawrence anti-libs on one thing---Lawrence is not as liberal/progressive as it seems to think it is. (I realize I'm making a broad generalization here.) I once lived in Lawrence and now live in a Kansas town where recycling is mandated and it is picked up at the curb. (Cue all the anti-government people.)

It seems there is disagreement about which takes more energy, paper or plastic, but plastic does stay around forever and make a mess, whereas paper tends to recycle itself.

The ick/sanitary factor of continually using a reusable plastic bag finally got to me and I use cotton/canvas bags, most of which I got "free" for giving money to some organization, and I wash them periodically. When just shopping for a few things, a nice market basket is handy. You can put your items in it instead of using a cart or one of those generally filthy plastic baskets at the store and then take your groceries home in it. They don't tip over or break.

And, yes, Sunshine, the manufacturers should do more (spending ten minutes or more trying to get a small object out of a huge plastic package while trying not to slash oneself is ridiculous) but it has to start somewhere. I realize what I do doesn't make a big difference, but it's a start.

(Gets off soap box)

ivalueamerica 6 years, 7 months ago

This whole paper bag plastic bag impact on the environment is a great demonstration of how politics mis uses science.

The so called facts here presented on both sides are not truly facts, but partial facts.

The pro plastic bag people are correct when they site things like the amount of energy and greenhouse gases produced by the production and decomp of paper bags and the stats of the pro paper bag people are also correct when talking about decomp, sea pollution and the like.

However, both sides fail, and fail miserable because each side ONLY pics the parts of the science that support their opinion and completely ignores the parts that do not.

Not a one of them have fully weighed both sides to make their decision nor would they ever.

Pathetic, is all I have to say.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

Did you miss the part about reusable bags?

ivalueamerica 6 years, 7 months ago

no, but you missed the point of my comment

somedude20 6 years, 7 months ago

Well, all day long on the LJW I hear how bad plastics are at this or how wonderful plastic bags did that! Plastic, plastic, plastic!

Folks, remember that prophylactics (can't say condoms cause LJW will yank your post. Whoops, did I say that, yes, I did say that) get flushed or chrown out and they are made from latex, polyurethane orpolyisoprene. Do you think they break down? They also contain biohazards. Just sayin...

Danielle Brunin 6 years, 7 months ago

Actually, you can compost rubber and lambskin condoms. shudders Not saying anyone should, just that it can be done. Just bury them deep in the bin, for heaven's sake.

Kris_H 6 years, 7 months ago

Actually latex does break down pretty well, eventually. Try leaving a package of condoms or some latex gloves in a car's glove box in the summer time. You will find they break down into a gooey mess. :D

somedude20 6 years, 7 months ago

I wish the ones that have ended up in my alleyway would break down as they have been there since the fall at least....gross

Commenting has been disabled for this item.