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And the survey says…

March 30, 2010

A total of 192 responses were collected from a survey conducted by Pebble in the Pond in February and March 2010, to obtain feedback for its cloth bag program. The survey consisted of two parts: the first was a short multi-part questionnaire gauging participants’ values, the second was an informal ‘bag-count’ held at local grocery stores.  See the full report here (3 MB pdf)

The purpose of Pebble in the Pond’s first shopping bag survey was not to provide highly detailed statistics, but to give us a general first look at people’s perception of plastic bags, and to raise awareness of plastic pollution. The responses to the values survey were quite positive and showed a lot of support for either a ban or surcharge on disposable plastic shopping bags. Overall there seems to be a lot of interest and support for the environment and environmentally-friendly stores. If one were to look at the general trend in our results — especially when balanced with the bag-count you will see below — it becomes clear that good intentions do not always pan out in our actions: on average people used two single-use plastic bags each, with paper bags coming in second at 1.74 bags/shopper. Note that this does not include those flimsy produce bags or the much thicker (and longer-lasting) ‘clam shell’ containers and such, used to transport prepared foods.

On the plus side, we noticed that many people did have reusable shopping bags with them, but often not enough of them, while some realized that their food was already quite packaged, and walked right out of the grocery stores with their soup can or bag of  potatoes in hand.

Hindsighters are 20/20

While co-manning the Pebble in the Pond info table at Quality Foods on March 3, the report’s author Aron Strumecki and I noted the shopper’s lament of “I keep forgetting my [reusable] bag at home/ in the car”, at which time we presented the shoppers with our Hindsighters. These are printed 100% recycled paper car ‘air fresheners’ (sans scent) that people can hang on their rear view mirrors or on their doorknobs. They were quite the hit.

I think the statistics show there is an awareness of the plastic bag problem in town, and that people try to mitigate it by either using reusable bags, reusing or recycling their plastic shopping bags, by using paper bags (which of course have their own issues), or by avoiding bags altogether. That said, many people did refer to the fact that while they may be using reusable bags, the contents of these bags tended to be wrapped or encased in plastic.  It’ll be interesting to see how the new awareness of ‘plastic creep’ will evolve.

Powell River Shopping Bag Stats

Powell River Shopping Bag Stats

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 6, 2010 4:44 pm

    I have been pleased to see how many reusable bags are being used by customers at all our large super markets in PR.
    I have stood at the checkout and looked down the row of cashiers to see a very large number of people have brought bags like I have.
    Well, I have been in Vancouver a few times this spring and done several trips of grocery shopping for my daughter in law. Sad to say that I have done this simple survey each time and found that I was the only one with cloth bags. I have had “looks” from the cashiers and bag boys when I insist that we’ve got to quit using plastic ( grin)
    The last time, I handed the clerk 2 bags for my 15 items and he proceeds to put all my fruit and vegies in a plastic bag . I stopped him and said to use the cloth bag that i gave him. His answer was that customers do not like the wet produce in a cloth bag, to which I said ” well it will dry!!!”
    The second clerk who was bagging wondered why I wouldn’t take the plastic bags because “what did I use to collect my garbage”?? – And of course I figured that no one in the whole city recycled or composted so of course there was a larger need for garbage bags.

    You’re doing a great job of education in our town. Just finished reading the wonderful issue of Powell River Living for this month.
    Just wanted you to know that i treated myself to a chipper grinder this past year and have a large pile of mulch. My new tiller is on it’s way and I am looking forward to getting the garden dug. My compost is already turned, sifted and spread. My recycling sits at the front door ready to go to the green bins. Our small town is putting the big city to shame. Keep up the good work.
    Nina Mussellam

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