Customers who reuse plastic, paper or cloth bags will receive a 5-cent rebate on their groceries from Albertson's supermarkets.
The Idaho-based grocery store chain, which launched the program a few weeks ago, also is collecting bags for recycling. But customers in Utah and in other areas served by the supermarket chain get a discount only when reusing their bags for grocery purchases."We get lots of letters, phone calls, verbal feedback, wanting us to use environmentally safe products," spokesman Stephen Hilton said.
Albertson's also will sell reusable cotton canvas bags for $2.99.
The move is part of a mushrooming trend for companies marketing themselves as friendly to the environment.
Grocery bags have been a big part of the environmental debate, especially the controversy of paper vs. plastic.
Plastic bags do not decay, and they end up clogging landfills, environmentalists said. Paper bags may eventually rot, but they are bulkier than plastic bags and waste trees.
The best solution, groups such as Greenpeace said, is to reuse bags. This is no insignificant controversy: Each Albertson's store gives away 50,000 to 100,000 bags a week.
Albertson's is not the first to give bag rebates. In Cincinnati, the Kroger chain gives 2 cents to consumers who reuse bags.
In South Florida, Winn-Dixie is starting a bag recycling program, but it won't include rebates. Publix recycles bags in Jacksonville and sells reusable cloth bags in Lakeland.
Publix said it is moving cautiously. It is concerned that reusing bags might be a health concern.
But Albertson's thinks consumers will be sensible. Even if they are not, Hilton doesn't think it will be a problem.
"It's like keeping your house clean. If you don't, it doesn't hurt anybody else," he said.