The Merc says goodbye to plastic bags

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.