Walmart Is Expanding Its Single-Use Bag Ban to 111 More Stores, Starting Jan. 18
Don't forget to bring your own reusable bags in the new year.
A lack of single-use bags is nothing new for Walmart shoppers in some states—residents in California have been going without plastic bags since 2016. But for shoppers who aren't familiar with these policies, a change to the checkout process can be disorienting. Walmart recently announced plans to get rid of plastic bags in Colorado, and now, the ban is expanding to another 111 stores, albeit in a slightly different way. Read on to find out more about Walmart's evolving bag policy.
Bag bans are an eco-conscious initiative.
In July 2020, Walmart announced an environmental initiative to "reinvent the plastic bag," moving closer to its zero-waste goal. Walmart stores in Vermont officially nixed single-use bags in Feb. 2021, and Maine promptly followed suit in July.
Both Maine and Vermont are among the nine U.S. states that have banned single-use plastic bags in general. The others are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, and New Jersey (the latest addition). Colorado will join the pack when a law banning single-use plastic bags takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
Walmart is actually ahead of the game in Colorado, confirming that it'll no longer provide shoppers with single-use bags next month, The Daily Sentinel reported.
"Beginning Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, Walmart stores in Colorado will no longer provide single-use plastic or paper bags at checkout or pickup. Delivery will shift to paper bags," Lauren Willis, global communications director for Walmart in the Western U.S., said in a statement. "We are working hard to ensure a seamless and convenient shift to reusable bags for our customers and associates. Eliminating single-use bags is part of our commitment to achieve zero waste across our operations and ultimately shift gradually toward a circular economy built on advancing reuse, refill, and recycling habits."
Colorado customers are encouraged to bring their own bags, but they can also purchase reusable bags starting at $0.33 each, Willis confirmed to The Daily Sentinel.
Now, another state won't have the option to purchase single-use bags at all.
Paper bags are disappearing at Walmarts in New York.
After ringing in the New Year, Walmart will be getting rid of single-use paper bags at its New York stores. An official announcement was posted on the Facebook page for the Walmart store in Olean, New York, on Dec. 5. "Hey, New York! Paper shopping bags are going away on 1/18," the post from Walmart reads.
New York banned plastic carry-out bags in March 2020, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), but stores have been permitted to sell paper carry-out bags for five cents a pop.
For its part, however, Walmart will no longer offer this option come January, reminding customers not to forget to bring their own bags in the Facebook post. If you're really in a pickle, you can still purchase Walmart's reusable bags while shopping in-store, the retailer said.
Interestingly, back in September, local Walmart stores in New York hinted that paper bags would be nixed come Oct. 1. At the time, Walmart corporate denied reports, per MyTwinTiers.com.
According to Walmart's website, there are a total of 111 retail units in the state of New York, including supercenters, discount stores, neighborhood markets, and Sam's Clubs. Best Life reached out to Walmart for more information on the New York bag policy change, but has not yet heard back.
These changes often follow state regulations, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.
New York shoppers shared mixed responses on Walmart Olean's post, with one frustrated user writing that they already have to pay for paper bags, which "rip as we put them into the cart." Others said the news isn't necessarily bad, while another blamed the state for the policy change. However, New York has yet to ban single-use paper bags, per the current DEC page on the Bag Waste Reduction Law.
If it's any comfort to New York shoppers, they aren't alone in this situation: New Jersey has a similar policy in place. According to Walmart's website, New Jersey defines single-use carryout bags as those made of both plastic and paper. Walmart was forced to give both the boot when the state passed its regulation in May 2022.
Like its northern neighbor, Walmart stores in New Jersey will let you buy reusable bags at the register, and if you order your groceries online, the big-box retailer is currently providing them free of charge with delivery orders.
But even though these reusable bags are well-intended, some customers say they're doing more harm than good.
Reusable bags are getting pushback.
Walmart shoppers affected by single-use bag bans have been speaking out, claiming that policy changes are making things worse, not better. They cited particular frustration with Walmart's reusable shopping bags, which some have been receiving in droves.
A 2020 United Nations study found that these bags can be more harmful, as they require more energy to make and need to be used 10 to 20 times to decrease environmental impact. On top of that, shoppers are frustrated with the number of bags they've collected, asking Walmart to identify a different solution.
Customers in Canada claim that they receive more bags than they could possibly reuse, with one Walmart shopper telling the Canada Broadcasting Company (CBC) that he's accumulated roughly 300 reusable Walmart bags over the past six months, which "just creates more waste."
In a previous statement to Best Life, Walmart global communications director Willis said that single-use plastic shopping bags have been out of use in Canada since April. "As we approach the one-year anniversary of this initiative, we're continuing to learn and adjust alongside our customers," she noted. "Since April 2022, we have prevented more than 421M single-use plastic shopping bags from entering circulation."
She added that the retailer is "exploring different options" when it comes to reusable bags and "reviewing opportunities to take back our reusable bags in-store."