Vancouver Grocer Uses Embarrassing Slogans to Discourage Plastic Bag Use

Written by Katherine Martinko

Unfortunately, people like the slogans a bit too much.

The East West Market, an independent grocery store in Vancouver, wanted its customers to use fewer plastic shopping bags, so it printed a limited series of bags with embarrassing logos that would make people disinclined to take them. These include ‘Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium’ and ‘Dr. Toews’ Wart Ointment Wholesale.’

According to store owner David Kwen, the plan wasn’t to embarrass customers so much as it was to spark an important discussion. The five-cent charge hadn’t worked to discourage people from taking bags, so Kwen hoped the messages on them would. He†told†the Guardian:

We wanted to give them something humorous, but also something that made them think at the same time. Itís human nature not to want to be told what to do.

It’s a clever idea, but in the case of the East West Market, the plan has backfired. People love the bags so much that they have asked to special-order them. Online commenters have said they would “100 percent not use reusable bags, just to see which awesome bag I get next,” or even take extra bags to give away as novelty items. Kwen admitted to that “some of the customers want to collect them because they love the idea of it.”

As the plastic crisis continues to mount, individuals, businesses, and governments are all looking for ways to cut down on plastic use. The Canadian Liberal government just announced plans to†phase out single-use plastics, starting in the next two years. It joins 40+ other countries that have banned or restricted the use of plastic shopping bags. Meanwhile, studies continue to be published revealing just how prevalent plastic contamination is in the world, such as one from the University of Victoria, Canada, that found people†ingest an average of 50,000 microplastic particles†per year.

The East West Market has the right idea, in theory, to make plastic bags embarrassing, but perhaps its definition of ‘embarrassing’ needs to be reconsidered. When a commenter on the grocer’s†Facebook page†asked how to order bags and have them shipped to Texas, someone else responded, addressing Kwen directly:

It’s become apparent that the messaging on your bags needs to change depending on where your store is located. If you expand and open a store in Texas (for example), you might want to consider the following: “Drought Worshipers of America” [and] “Support a lower state speed limit.”

Indeed, these are good examples of messages that might truly embarrass a customer and make them less inclined to accept the bag. An inversion of the usual positive messages seen on reusable cloth bags might work too. ‘This bag will probably choke a seagull,’ ‘Whale-killer,’ or ‘I don’t care about the environment’ would likely raise some eyebrows. Another more dramatic step would be to stop offering plastic bags as of a certain date and to replace with paper.

At the very least, it’s good to see stores taking action. No publicity is bad publicity when it comes to this topic, says campaign group A Plastic Planet. A spokesman†told the New York Times†that “the backfire was actually a ‘great piece of anti-plastic P.R.’ because it caught the publicís attention.”

This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

123 comments

Alea C
Alea C5 hours ago

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Alea C
Alea C5 hours ago

Back again for butterfly points.

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Alea C
Alea Cyesterday

TYFS

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Alea C
Alea Cyesterday

TYFS

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Leo C
Leo Cyesterday

Thank you for sharing!

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Julia R
Julia R1 days ago

What a great idea to embarrass shoppers who are responsible for polluting our earth and oceans!

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Alea C
Alea C3 days ago

I want to help save the rain forest via butterfly credits, and if that means I have to come here every day to comment on all these old articles then so be it.

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Alea C
Alea C3 days ago

I want to help save the rain forest via butterfly credits, and if that means I have to come here every day to comment on all these old articles then so be it.

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H3 days ago

thanks

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Alea C
Alea C4 days ago

Butterfly points.

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