Costco‘s, one of the worlds’ largest and must successful discount shopping chains, is also one of the most friendly from an environmental standpoint. Besides offering a wide variety of goods, including many whole food items, the chain does not give either paper or plastic shopping bags to sack groceries. Customers have to bring these themselves. There are two philosophies behind the company’s central management’s decision to do away with the ubiquitous shopping bags that people in other stores still use for not only their purchases, but at home as garbage and lunch bags, utility bags, and a world of other uses. Besides saving the chain a tremendous lot of money (grocery bags can cost one store an average of $30,000 per year) the chain is also proud of its overall contribution to protecting the environment.
Although mainly located in the U.S.A. and Canada, Costco also has 31 stores in Mexico, 19 in the U.K., 8 in Japan, 6 in South Korea, and 5 in Taiwan. People who shop in one the company’s wholesale stores have to either bring re-usable shopping bags with them or use cardboard boxes that contained goods sold in the store and are placed near the exits for customer use. The company also passes good buys on to their customers, including their own “house brand”, Kirkland Signature, which is seen on items ranging from food products to automobile batteries and tires. People wanting to shop at Costco purchase an annual membership for around $100 which they more than make up by the discounts they receive on their purchases during the year.
It is currently estimated that the 562 world-wide locations save more than $16 million dollars per year in bag costs and literally thousands of tons of plastic and paper waste. Other large shopping clubs, such as Sam’s Club (owned by WalMart) also supply less shopping bags or none at all. Re-usable bags are available for sale, however.
The problem of shopping bags, made from petroleum based polyester material, has been a major concern of environmentalists for years. These bags not only clutter up garbage dumps, but are discarded at beaches, forest recreation areas and reservoirs. It takes as long as a hundred years for one of these bags to disintegrate and the pollution they cause when disposed in garbage dumps eventually reach ground water aqua systems.
By eliminating these bags at check out counters, stores like Costco’s not only save money but help considerably in protecting the ecology of our planet.