Vancouver market tries to end plastic bag use by printing embarrassing messages

Click to play video: 'Vancouver store hands out ’embarrassing’ plastic bags'
Vancouver store hands out ’embarrassing’ plastic bags
WATCH: A Vancouver market is taking an unusual route to try to convince its customers to give up plastic bags; embarrassment. Jordan Armstrong reports – Jun 5, 2019

Would you use a plastic bag for your groceries if “Colon Care Co-op” was written in large letters on the side?

How about “Weird Adult Video Emporium” or “Wart Ointment Wholesale”?

A Vancouver market is hoping those messages will convince people that using plastic bags is just not worth it, and that shoppers will bring reusable bags with them instead.

WATCH: (Aired May 23) Horseshoe Bay businesses move to ban plastic bags

Click to play video: 'Horseshoe Bay businesses move to ban plastic bags'
Horseshoe Bay businesses move to ban plastic bags

David Lee Kwen, owner of East West Market on Main Street and King Edward Avenue, says many customers forget to bring those reusable bags, and he hopes this strategy sends a message that will stick.

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“The message is, we should make a conscious effort to save our planet one step at a time,” he said. “[Plastic bags] are a big problem, and every step helps.”

Not only do the bags include messages many shoppers wouldn’t want to be caught dead with, they also cost an extra five cents each, a strategy used by many other independent markets to stop plastic bag use.

Kwen says some customers have taken to buying the bags for the novelty factor or to show their friends, but overall the campaign appears to be working.

“It’s certainly generated interest in what we’re trying to put out,” he said. “Once you start a conversation, it will skyrocket from there, I think.”

The bags won’t last forever, though. Kwen says printing the special bags costs the market an extra fee, so they’ll be a limited edition order unless people convince him to do it again.

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WATCH: (Aired June 29, 2018) B.C.’s capital banning single-use plastic bags 

Click to play video: 'B.C.’s capital banning single-use plastic bags July 1st'
B.C.’s capital banning single-use plastic bags July 1st

Vancouver does not yet have an outright ban on single-use plastic bags the way other B.C. cities like Victoria, Salmon Arm and Tofino do.

New Westminster city council considered a similar ban last year, before sending it back to staff for them to develop a reduction strategy instead.

That appears to be the route Vancouver is taking with its Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy, which requires businesses to come up with their own ways to reduce plastic bag use.

However, the strategy also says the city will implement a full ban if reduction targets aren’t met by 2021.

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Kwen says he hopes the ban will come sooner than that, though.

“We’ve been advocating for it for the longest time,” he said. “Once you start the process, it will get smaller and smaller, and hopefully the problem will be gone.”

A ban on plastic straws is set to be in place by April 2020, with exceptions for health care needs and accessibility.

— With files from Jordan Armstrong

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