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Plastic bags meant to shame Vancouver shoppers end up being wildly popular instead

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Eric Zimmer Jul 12, 2019 10:13 am 1,502

A Vancouver grocery store’s plan to combat the use of single-use plastic bags by charging its customers 5 cents for ones with “embarrassing” slogans and fictional businesses on them has had an unintended effect: people just can’t get enough of them.

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Last month, David Lee Kwen, the owner of East West Market, told Daily Hive that he wanted to “help customers remember their reusable bags in a way that will really stick with them.”

He decided that his store would still supply customers with plastic bags, at 5 cents apiece, but the bags would feature slogans and graphics such as  “Into The Weird Adult Video Emporium,”  “Dr. Toew’s Wart Ointment Wholesale,” or “The Colon Care Co-Op.”

Plastic bag design (East West Market)

The idea was that by giving out these bags to people, they would hopefully think twice about bringing their own reusable bag, lest they be embarrassed or shamed by others when out and about in public.

But as it turns out, people have actually been coming into the store for the sole purpose of snagging one of the bags for themselves.

“We’re blown away by the global response to these plastic bags,” the business said on Facebook.

Now, East West Market said it is in the process of creating reusable bags that will feature “some of the designs from our embarrassing plastic bags, so people can enjoy the slogans without the plastic.”

Beyond just the popularity of the bags, the store said the goal of its original campaign has been largely successful, as well.

“After we implemented the embarrassing plastic bags, the number of our customers bringing reusable bags surged to 96%—reducing the use of plastic bags in our store.”

Going forward, the business said it is still looking to phase out plastic bags completely, “but in the mean time we encourage all our customers to keep this going and remember their reusable bag.”

Single-use plastic ban on the horizon

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government intends to ban single-use plastics by the year 2021.

Banned items could be replaced with re-usable alternatives or disposable biodegradable products such as paper straws and plant-made food containers.

The move follows a plan by the European Union to ban single-use plastic cutlery, straws, sticks, plastic bags, and cotton swabs.

“Canadians know first-hand the impacts of plastic pollution, and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets, and shorelines littered with plastic waste,” said Trudeau. “We owe it to our kids to keep the environment clean and safe for generations to come.”

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