Why is Whole Foods offering plastic bags as a checkout option?

I do a twice-monthly shopping trip to Whole Foods to pick up the items that I can’t get at any of my local stores (local meaning in my village or the next village over). Given all of the hoopla over plastic bags and Whole Foods being the preeminent natural foods grocer I’m surprised that they haven’t taken a stand on plastic bags and banned them from the store.

“Paper or plastic?” is the question I always get from the checkout person there. At the larger grocery stores in my area I don’t even get that question. They automatically give plastic. If you ask for paper bags they have to pull them out from behind the register and the paper bags don’t even have handles. The local small, upscale chain only gives paper…I don’t event think plastic is an option there.

Now in my mind paper certainly is a better option of the two simply because I think people are more likely to either reuse or recycle them. We reuse the paper and plastic bags we have here. I want to try the cloth bags but they simply won’t be a completely viable option until I can accumulate enough for the weekly shopping.

Back to Whole Foods.

The How Green Are We? webpage on the Whole Foods corporate site doesn’t have any mention of plastic bags. They do give you some money back for reusing bags (Paper or plastic. $0.10 per? I don’t know for sure) but should they be offering plastic at all? I did find this post at The Inoculated Mind that asks why isn’t Whole Foods using the new biodegradable corn-based plastic bags and finds that the answer is that those bags are made from genetically-modified corn. Now, I understand the stance that Whole Foods has about GE crops but in this case which is worse? The GE crop-based bags that biodegrade or the oil-based bags that don’t? (Of course the one question I don’t know the answer to is do these corn-based bags even biodegrade at all in a landfill? “Regular” plastic bags certainly won’t in those conditions).

If Whole Foods isn’t going to offer the plant-based alternative bag then they shouldn’t be offering the oil-based one either. “Paper or plastic?” shouldn’t even be a question being asked at Whole Foods.

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