When the first handles were stitched onto paper bags by a Minnesota grocer in 1912, he charged customers 5 cents—about $1.12 in today’s money. Eventually grocers began to give the bags away to customers, but by the 1980s, the rising cost of paper bags caused most stores to switch to the much cheaper, plastic T-shirt bags. Now, due to a host of pollution and environmental concerns, a growing number of states (including Delaware) and municipalities have banned plastic carry-out bags altogether, and some are even requiring grocers to charge for paper bags.
Shortly after we moved to our current location, Harvest Market implemented a bag rebate program, offering our customers a 5-cent credit—later raised to 10 cents as the price of bags continued to rise—for every reusable carry-out bag they brought in.
We offered the bag rebate to reward our customers for doing the right thing and taking one small step to reduce our impact on the environment. To all our customers who have reused your bags over the years, thank you. Sadly though, just 28% of our transactions are now carried home in shoppers’ reused bags. To put that in perspective, in 2022 the other 72% of our transactions used 155,000 of the large, 2-handled paper bags (often doubled as needed). Those bags weighed in at 16,400 pounds.
So, beginning on February 1, 2023, Harvest Market will be suspending our bag rebate program and instead will begin to charge 10 cents per bag (20 cents for doubles). These charges are at about the midpoint for what other stores charge. Though a few stores charge 5 cents, a 10-cent charge is more common. One regional chain—Moms—charges 25 cents.
And for cynics who think this change is a way for us to “make more money,” please note that our cost for each of these Duro brand, 2-handled, 70# bags is now 20 cents. Even though these bags are printed, they are less expensive than anything else we have access to in the quantities we can handle given our size. We are buying by the pallet, not the tractor-trailer load. We are one small store, not a chain of hundreds.
Thank you for your understanding. And thank you for bringing in your own reusable bags each time you shop. Please note that we will be charging only for the handled, large bags. Smaller paper bags will continue to be available at no charge, both in the produce aisle and at check-out.