And the survey says…
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.
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.