Plastic Grocery Bag Ban Blamed for Increased Shoplifting

Say What!? 30

Banning plastic bags from grocery stores in recent years seems to be the hot new trend for progressive enclaves like Los Angeles and Seattle that, you know, care about the environment. Because apparently using plastic bags to carry your food purchases home is the equivalent of clubbing baby seals. Or something.

Anyway, we’ve known for a while that reusable grocery bags can make you ill (it seems that not everyone knows you’re supposed to wash them after carrying your raw chicken home in them), but now a new unintended consequence has come up -- shoplifting.

At least one Seattle grocery store owner is claiming that the recently enacted, unanimously passed plastic bag ban has contributed to the loss of at least $5,000 in produce, and between $3,000 and $4,000 in frozen foods. Mike Duke opened the Lake Valley grocery store in June 2011, and says that his losses were minimal until last July when the bag ban took effect.x

Duke says the shoplifters’ patterns are difficult to detect, but the increased theft probably has to with the ability for a nefarious person to more easily conceal items they steal. When they come into the store with their own bags, things may go unnoticed at checkout, or they could simply claim they’d brought it in with them.

In January, six months after the bag ban began (say that five times fast), Seattle Public Utilities released data that said that 21.1 percent of business owners surveyed believed that it was troublesome and led to an increase in shoplifting.

What’s a business owner to do when regulations cause him to lose money? Duke has considered asking customers to check their bags at the counter before shopping, but thinks that would be too burdensome to customers and staff. Banning reusable bags and backpacks altogether would likely hinder business, as Seattle residents expect to use their own bags so they don’t end up looking like this guy from Portlandia.

It’s a conundrum, all right. The only thing we can say for certain is that whenever government comes in to “solve” a problem, it just creates a bunch of new ones.

What do you think about the plastic bag-banning trend? Good idea or bad idea?


Image via LaurelsPhotos/Flickr

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Vegeta Vegeta

...yess I brought these 3 frozen turkeys and 6 gallons of milk with me... Into the grocery store. They uh.. keep me company while I shop.... *twirls moustache menacingly*

mande... manderspanders

LOL vegeta!


I like plastic bags... I find them handy for household use - like cleaning the litter box; and I'm sure they will be a super cheap alternative to a diaper genie as well.


We recycle our plastic grocery bags that we don't reuse at home.  It really isn't that big of a deal to stash them away take them along to toss in the recycle bin at the grocery store.  Perhpas instead of banning them, recycling them could be a more prominent option, as I'm not sure many people are aware they can (I didn't know until my hubby told me).


I have my own reusable shopping bags, and IF I CAN REMEMBER THEM, I will take them along for a small trip/purchase... but mostly find it to be annoying to cart them around.

schlis schlis

We re-use ours too. I'd be upset if they banned them here in Texas. Thankfully, I don't see that happening.

Felly... FellyScarlett

I HATE re usable bags. I used to work at a grocery store and they're a freakin pain.

amber... amberdotsmom

I can see this, you can hide items in the unused bags pretty easy and I carry my bags folded in a smaller bag that I could probably stick items in.  My store has signs specifically asking that we shop into carts and not directly into the reusable bags so I guess they've had problems

Bloom... Bloomie79

Schlis - I'm pretty sure Austin TX just started this...


Prominent recycling options seems like a better solution, reusable bags have more problems than raw meat. 

tuffy... tuffymama

We use cardboard boxes at the grocery store and canvas totes (that we wash!) at the co-op. I use totes and the plastic bags at Walmart. I use those plastic bags to drop off donations, and to clean up after the dogs.

lalab... lalaboosh

You really are unaware that those plastic bags get eaten by wildlife causing death? I'm for the bans. The bags are wasteful and people are careless.

tinyk... tinykitty

I do have reusable bags that I take to Aldi (which I also wash) but I agree with manders that pushing recycling of plastic bags might be a better option than an outright ban.

bleed... bleedingheart8D

I use my gym bag to carry grocery bags home as much as possible. The plastic bags are bad for the environment, so...I don't know.

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