Shoppers react to Sobeys’ plastic bag elimination

Field Agent polled Canadians who visited the grocer last weekend to see how their habits were impacted.

One week ago, Sobeys enacted its previously announced plan to remove plastic bags from all of its 255 locations, which it estimates will take 225 million plastic bags out of circulation annually. Parent company Empire also plans to phase out plastic bags from its other banners, including Safeway, FreshCo and Foodland.

With the plastic bag elimination set to continue at Empire stores, the growing emphasis on waste reduction at retailers and the fact that the federal government has been considering stepping in to ban plastic bags, market research firm Field Agent polled 132 Canadians that had visited a Sobeys following the removal of plastic bags to see how it looked from their perspective.

Among the shoppers, 64% of respondents brought their own bags from home (55% of those respondents specifically brought cloth/reuseable bags). For those who don’t bring bags to the store, Sobeys does offer non-plastic options for purchase: among Field Agent’s respondents who did buy bags, 43% bought reuseable bags and 39% bought paper bags. An additional 8% of respondents said they would have chosen to use a plastic bag for similar trips in the past, but opted to not use any bag at all for their purchase.

The elimination began last Friday, but two dozen respondents said plastic bags were still available in the Sobeys stores they visited.

Overall, the shoppers polled by Field Agent were in favour of Sobeys’ plans: weighing their support on a scale of one to five, the average score provided was 4.4. Other waste-focused initiatives at Sobeys include the development of a new line of reusable mesh produce bags made from recycled water bottles and in-store plastic bag recycling programs in Atlantic and Western Canada. IGA stores are also testing other ways to encourage reusable bag adoption, such as designated parking spots for customers who bring reusable bags and allowing customers to “rent” reusable bags.