Here's a new crinkle in the fast-changing politics of plastic sacks: Walmart is going to see what happens if shoppers don't have the option of free bags at the checkout counter.
In a long-term trial starting this Sunday at the company's store in Folsom and a few other locations around California, Walmart shoppers can either bring their own bags or buy reusable ones, with prices starting at 15 cents.
In the last few years, local governments from California to Connecticut have enacted various restrictions on plastic bags, and now major retailers are taking their own steps. Target on Monday announced it would give customers a 5-cent discount for every reusable bag they utilize at checkout. Drugstore chain CVS recently said it would give $1 to customers for every four times they check out without taking a bag.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, last year set a goal of cutting plastic bag usage 33 percent by 2013. Now, at selected stores around the world, the company is testing ways to deliver that reduction, from retraining baggers to pack sacks fuller to giving shoppers who bring their own bags access to designated checkout lines.
Experts say that experimental approach is essential, because it's not clear what strategies deliver a meaningful reduction in plastics usage. Toughest of all is figuring out how to get shoppers to bring their own bags.
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