Reducing shopping bag usage - the Swiss way

shoppingbags.jpgReading this post on Serious Eats about the different ways in which municipalities in the U.S. are trying to reduce shopping bag usage, I couldn’t help comparing it to the way Switzerland copes with the issue. Here there is no banning of plastic bags or anything aggressive like that. Instead, shoppers are given two choices of disposable containers for their groceries at the checkout counter: free but really flimsy and small plastic bags, which are barely big enough to hold a packet of sandwiches and a drink; or a sturdy paper bag - that costs 30 Rappen each, which is about 25 US cents. I think this is a really smart solution, because having to pay even that small amount for a shopping bag really discourages people from using them. (The supermarket shopping bags are so attractive it seems to Japanese people that they are even sold for more than 10 times what they cost as accessories!)

In Zürich, everyone carries cloth shopping bags, backpacks, and so on to do their shopping as a matter of course, and people with just a little to buy will stuff their purchases wherever they can - I’ve seen elegant women with vegetables peeking out of their expensive handbags, and businessmen putting groceries into their briefcases. That may be the key really: who says that we need to put groceries, most of which are packed in various forms of plastic anyway, into separate, special bags? (Granted, I would have never thought of this when I lived in the U.S.)

They do things similarly in France too, though there they have plastic disposable bags instead of paper ones. French supermarkets also carry canvas bags, which aren’t that widely seen in Switzerland, as well as sturdy plastic bags of Ikea bag quality.

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that is so right! we really

that is so right! we really don’t need all those plastic bags..
a friend from abroad even took photos of me while i was carrying some veggies home in my arms without a bag, because she thought that is such a typical sight in Berlin and she haven’t seen that anywhere else before… :D (but usualy i use a backpack too)

Julia | 27 July, 2007 - 19:57

In Germany it’s just about

In Germany it’s just about the same. Most of the convenience stores have free tiny thin plastic bags and firmer ones to buy. Bigger supermarkets also have canvas bags - they’re more expensive, but it pays off, as you can wash and reuse them easily and they are really stable so you don’t have to fear breakage.
Haha, I remember my German grandmother would always give me such a canvas bag to go to the bakery, so they wouldn’t have to give me paper bags for the bread :D

But I personally know only a few people who can be bothered to reuse their bags or take a backpack with them. They just buy some plastic bags at the checkout counter.
My boyfriend and I, being college students who have to pinch and scrape, have a “collection” of sturdy plastic and canvas bags (also two Ikea bags ;)) to take with us for shopping.

@Julia: When I buy only a few things I tend to carry them in my arms, too. (Or stuff them into my backpack, if I happen to have it with me). Sometimes I try to put all the little items into my pockets, which can look pretty weird :D

zyna | 27 July, 2007 - 21:06

In Kobe too

Hi Maki,

I thought you would be interested to know that at my store in Sumiyoshi (Kobe) they now make people buy bags-10 yen per bag. I was in the store yesterday and amazed how many people are bringing their bags! This is including me who has so many good bags from living in Germany but just didn`t bring them because I knew I could get bags at the store. Now I always have a bag with me. There is another store across the street, but I want to support this store even though it is a bit more expensive.

Jill | 29 July, 2007 - 09:53

A Canadian variation

Although I carry sturdy (and attractive) cloth carrier bags that my sister sews to support a seniors’ project which runs a small handicrafts shop, a couple of the regional grocery store chains have interesting twists on how they distribute plastic bags.

Like some of the other examples, they offer a choice: if you want to take your groceries home in a cardboard box, it’s free - they store the cases that cereal, bananas, detergent and everything else comes in and shoppers can take their pick. However, if there are boxes and you choose a plastic bag, it’s 5 cents. If they’re out of cardboard boxes, the bags are free.

Another store provides plastic bags at no charge, but they give those of us who recycle the plastic bags or bring our own cloth bags a ballot to enter for a monthly draw for one of their gift cards.

Recently more and more retailers are selling their own reusable bags for 99 cents, thereby continuing to advertise their stores on their bags, reducing their costs by not having to provide as many one-use bags, and getting good corporate citizen points by encouraging reuse.

Judith | 31 July, 2007 - 00:19

Re: Reducing shopping bag usage - the Swiss way

Hi! I just discovered your blog today and have been perusing your archives. I had to laugh aloud when I read the part about women shoving veggies into their expensive handbags. I love it! While not a fancy hand bag, I definitely had a giant cucumber protruding from my LeSportsac Bag last weekend because my husband and I forgot the shopping bags at home! I refuse to pay the 30 rappen!

Amanda | 18 August, 2009 - 10:11

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