When shoppers bring their own reusable bags, grocery stores save money. Over the past five years or so, many stores have adopted a policy of giving shoppers a small rebate, usually 3 to 5 cents, for each reusable bag they use. It’s not a lot of money, but it can be an incentive.

The question is, is it a good enough incentive to change the habits of most shoppers? A spokesman for Kroger — the largest supermarket chain in the nation — says, “the company has found no significant difference between reusable bag frequency in markets with rebates and those without them,” according to USA Today. As a result, Kroger has begun to phase out the bag discounts at some of its stores. The Safeway store chain has begun to do the same.

Instead of offering the small discounts, the stores are trying other methods to get shoppers to remember their reusable bags.

Kroger uses parking lot signs to remind shoppers to take their reusable bags out of the car. They also give out coupons for reusable bags, hold bag giveaways, and offer recycling containers for the plastic bags that do get used.

Safeway is offering 10 percent off its line of environmentally friendly home products to shoppers who use the Safeway “Bright Green” reusable bags. That 10 percent probably adds up than to more than the 3 to 5 cents for a bag.

Discounts are nice little rewards for bringing reusable bags. However, I think that if discounts aren't enticing enough people, it's a smart decision to put the money toward other ways to entice plastic and paper bag users to use reusable bags. The store where I regularly shop doesn't offer discounts for bringing my own bags, but if they did — and then stopped — it wouldn't make me leave my bags at home. 

What do you think?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Grocery stores discontinue discounts for reusable bags
Kroger and Safeway do away with discounts and try other methods to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags, saying the discounts weren't the right incentive.