Saving money by promoting bag reuse
(Wakefern Foods) is the largest retailer-owned food cooperative in the United States, with more than 190 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Delaware. In 1990, ShopRite began a customer bag-reuse program called “Save-A-Bag” in its stores, to reduce internal costs and to reduce the solid waste burden on customers.
“We found that reusing bags is good for the community because it reduces the amount of waste that goes to the landfills. It's also good for business because buying and warehousing fewer bags leads to significant savings for the company,” says Tim Vogel, Wakefern Corporation’s Manager of Environmental Affairs.
The program involves distributing educational materials and offering a refund of $0.02 per bag. The outside of every bag contains information about the reuse program, and the company posts signs about the program in stores.
ShopRite tracks refunds through cash registers, and at the end of the year rewards stores with the highest bag-reuse rate with prizes. When the program started in 1990, the bag-reuse rate was about 5 million bags per year. The reuse rate has fluctuated yearly, reaching about 6.7 million bags in 2002. All 190 ShopRite stores participate in the program. “Our customers have reused over 50 million bags, getting two cents back for each bag,” says Vogel.
Through the program, ShopRite saves about $134,000 per year by reducing bag purchases. According to Wakefern, if labor, storage, and transportation are factored in, ShopRite saves closer to $300,000 to $800,000 per year. The wide range is a result of differences in bag type, material, size, and use (for example, partially full bags versus completely full bags). Since its inception, the Save-A-Bag program has saved customers $1.2 million and has saved ShopRite $1.5 million.
Source: NYC WasteLess Summary Report, spring 2000, p. 69, and conversation with Wakefern Food Corporation’s Environmental Affairs Department, Spring 2003
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