Paper Bag Usage - The Grocery Industry: United States

Goals

To understand paper bag usage in the United States grocery market. Specifically looking at which national chains and the regions that consume the greatest number of paper bags, and how many paper bags do they use annually. To know what the other markets are that use paper bags. Additionally, to know whether there are areas in the United States where paper bags are not recyclable, and further to understand what areas in the United States where plastic bags are now illegal?

Early Findings

  • There is a combined total of 349 known cities, counties, and states to have, in some way, banned or taxed plastic bag use.
  • We have compiled a list of cities that have partially or wholly banned plastic bags on this spreadsheet.
  • When looking through the list of cities in the provided spreadsheet that have partially or wholly banned plastic bags, it's important to note this is an active area of legislation. Local governments across the United States have plans to vote on a ban in the coming years. A great interactive up to date map of each state is shown at Bag The Ban.
  • Eight states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont, have banned single-use plastic bags.
  • Paper or plastic? Wegmans would prefer neither, encouraging customers to instead switch to reusable bags as a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags looms. Paper grocery bags will continue to be available, but 5 cents will be charged for each bag. “Paper bags biodegrade efficiently in ideal conditions (access to light, air, water), which landfills do not provide,” a Wegmans spokesperson told syracuse.com. “According to the Biodegradable Products Institute, landfills are kept dry and air-tight to minimize uncontrolled biodegradation that can lead to ground water pollution and production of methane gas.”
  • According to Scientific American, plastic bags have long been an issue because plastic isn’t biodegradable. It ends up in landfills or as litter, and can take hundreds of years to decompose and releases toxins into the soil and water in the process. Paper bags also do not break down in landfills.
  • The Kroger Co. says it plans to stop distributing single-use bags completely by 2025 across its chains.
  • In addition to this public search, we scanned our proprietary research database of over 1 million sources and were unable to find any specific research reports that address the stated goals.

Summary Of Our Early Findings Relevant To The Goals

  • Our initial hour of research thoroughly answered the question concerning which areas in the United States have made the use of plastic bags illegal, and which areas have banned their use.
  • We were unable to locate any source that provided the number of paper bags used annually by national grocery chains in the United States, but there were older sources that indicated how many plastic bags they have used annually.
  • We did not have time to explore other markets that use paper bags.
  • We did not have time to explore whether there are areas in the United States where paper bags are not recyclable, but we did find sources that said using paper bags is just as bad as using plastic bags.
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Proposed next steps:

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