June 20th, 2019 – Paper, plastic or wart cream? One grocery store in Canada is hoping that their playful, shame-inducing plastic bags will force shoppers to start bringing reusable gear next time they head to the market.
David Lee Kwen is the owner of East West Market, an independent grocery store in Vancouver, and came up with the idea to create embarrassing designs. Originally, he thought a five cent fee for plastic bags would deter shoppers but when people somehow sprang for the uncharge Kwen went back to the drawing board.
People will now walk out with their organic and fair-trade products in single-use plastic bags that have slogans such as ‘Wart Ointment Wholesale,’ ‘Into The Weird Adult Video Emporium,’ and ‘The Colon Care Co-op.’
Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his country will ban several single-use plastic items, including bags, straws, and cutlery, by 2021. Currently, less than 10 percent of plastic used in Canada gets recycled, according to Trudeau. While he may not have as much political power, Kwen decided to up that deadline. The East West Market team put together a video explaining their decision, which has gained a lot of traction on social media.
“It’s hard to always remember a reusable bag,” their post reads. “We redesigned our plastic bags to help you never forget again!” Shoppers are seen placing their fruits and veggies into the bright, colorful, colon-calling bags, often with a smile on their face.
Having customers actually enjoy and want the re-designed bags was not something the store intended, but Kwen doesn’t necessarily see the appeal as a backfire. As people have started to collect the varying designs, he is still motivated in knowing that the attention will spark a conversation about an important topic.
“Even if you have the bag, you have to explain its origin to your friends. And then, we’ve started a conversation,” he said. “It’s a double-edged sword. We wanted to address an issue, but we’ve also made something popular, so it’s turned out great.”
And while some people continue to praise the store, others have questioned why they are even giving customers the option to buy single-use plastic products.
“This makes me so angry 🤬😡🤬. Who is the idiot who came up with this idea? Fire them. Fire them hard,” one Instagram user wrote. “Because if you truly want to remind customers to bring their own reusable bags, simply DON’T OFFER THEM ANY BAGS. They’ll learn their lesson after hobbling to their cars with arms full of groceries.”
“I hope you get boycotted into oblivion,” another user wrote.
Some proponents of the idea have encouraged the market to keep it up but tweak the message a little bit. It turns out making people laugh hasn’t actually embarrassed them enough to ditch plastic.
“Nice try, but it is too cute by half. Why not have them say “This bag is destroying your children’s future” I guarantee fewer people would request that version than the “cute” one,” one person suggested online.
Kwen has decided to capitalize on the designs’ popularity by printing them on canvas bags for purchase. Helping marine life and your bank account? Win, win.