A grocery store in Canada struck up an ingenious plan to persuade people to ditch single-use bags using a staple sensation of the human experience: embarrassment.
Customers who didn't bring their own bags to the East West Market in Vancouver were forced to pay 5 cents for plastic bags with a humiliating slogan printed on the side, including “Wart Ointment Wholesale”, “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium”, and "The Colon Care Co-Op".
"It's hard to always remember a reusable bag,” East West Market said in a post on Instagram. “We redesigned our plastic bags to help you never forget again!"
Unfortunately, their well-intentioned campaign was a victim of its own success. As NPR reports, customers were surprisingly fond of the humourous bags and even began buying them as kitsch collector's items. Hipsters, eh? The demand for bags was good for business, no doubt, but it went against the original purpose of the campaign.
So, in light of the bags’ unexpected success, the store plans to print their shameful slogans onto multi-use canvas bags instead.
"The underlying thing is that it creates conversation, and that's what we actually wanted to get across to the general public,” store owner David Kwen told NPR’s Here & Now program.
"If you talk to people in a nice, humorous way, I think they listen,” he added.
There are over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic trash in the world's oceans and that figure is set to triple by the year 2025. While single-use plastics dumped by consumers, such as grocery bags and straws, are undoubtedly an issue, the lion's share of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans comes from industry. One study found that discarded fishing nets account for at least 46 percent of plastic pollution in certain parts of the ocean.
Fortunately, the tides are beginning to turn and the world is slowly but surely getting rid of plastic in favor of sustainable options. Numerous jurisdictions across the world, including the European Union and the Canadian government, have looked to introduce bans on single-use plastic in a bid to reduced ocean plastic pollution. Nevertheless, with many of the world's biggest plastic producers – China, Indonesia, and the Philippines – sticking their heads in the sand, there's still a long way to go.