As city lawmakers weigh banning plastic bags and levying a new tax on paper ones, homegrown Baltimore grocer Eddie’s of Roland Park is joining its peers in trying to incentivize shoppers to bring their own receptacles from home.
The company plans to begin offering a $0.05 credit to customers for each reusable bag they bring, starting Aug. 25. Both stores at 5113 Roland Ave. and 6213 N. Charles St. will also be selling $1.99 reusable bags buy-one-get-one-free for two weeks.
While the extra change is a drop in the bucket for pretty much any shopper, Eddie’s marketing manager Jared Earley said the hope is that it can “avert thousands of single-use bags” from being used, particularly during busy times like back-to-school season and the holidays.
“While we’re proudly old-fashioned in many ways, we recognize the importance of addressing sustainability opportunities in our store,” Earley said in an email. He added, “Being a customer-focused retailer, when we introduce any changes we look at how our shoppers can benefit, and this initiative provides both financial and environmental rewards.”
Eddie’s is celebrating its 75th anniversary in North Baltimore this year.
The business will join larger competitors that adopted similar policies years ago. Both of Baltimore’s Whole Foods locations, in Harbor East and Mt. Washington, offer the same $0.05-per-reusable-bag credit to shoppers. MOM’s Organic Market, which has stores in Lutherville, White Marsh, Hampden and elsewhere, doubles the offer at $0.10 per reusable bag.
Others, like ShopRite, which has locations in Howard Park and Parkville, and Giant, which has numerous stores in the area, had rebate offers in place for more than two decades before they ended their programs in 2014.
A study published in the American Economic Journal last year concluded that taxes on disposable bags, such as $0.05 excise implemented in Montgomery County at the start of 2012, significantly reduced plastic-bag usage. But rebates didn’t deter customers from using disposable bags.
Ashley Van Stone, executive director of Trash Free Maryland, said in an email that fees are “an effective mechanism in driving behavior change to achieve source reduction, while offering a discount tends more often to be a reward for customers who have already adopted a behavior.”
Still, she said, “giving customers a rebate for bringing their own bag is an added incentive for personal waste reduction,” and shows Eddie’s of Roland Park’s “commitment to sustainability and using commerce as a critical platform for culture change.”
Baltimore council members are poised to add the city to a growing list of jurisdictions that take the route of charging fees. With the General Assembly’s blessing, Howard County followed Montgomery’s lead this year in imposing a $0.05 fee on disposable bags.
Legislation introduced in June would tax disposable bags in the city at $0.05 apiece, with retailers getting to keep a penny from each transaction for their troubles.
The same legislation will also put Baltimore on a list of places that have banned single-use plastic bags entirely. Takoma Park, Chestertown and Westminster have already done so in Maryland. Nationally, eight states–including five just this year–have enacted such bans.
At a hearing on the bill earlier this month, proponents including Baltimore’s Health and Public Works departments and the National Aquarium supported the proposed ban and tax, saying it could help reduce litter and push customers to be more eco-conscious.
Some retailers, as well as the Baltimore Development Corporation, are pushing back against it, saying it threatens businesses’ profit lines. Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, has said grocers and other trade association members are open to the ban and tax, but want to be able to retain more than $0.01 of the surcharge from each transaction.
The legislation, which has backing from about two-thirds of the council, must still be approved by the Judiciary Committee before it heads to a full vote. This marks the ninth time that Baltimore lawmakers have sought a ban on single-use plastic bags.
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