Where You Should Bring Your Own Bag to Save

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A long time ago I first wrote about stores that reward you when you bring your own bag. This was back in my Suddenly Frugal days when IKEA had announced they would start charging customers for taking a plastic bag. At that time in my life, I was looking to save money anyway possible. Suddenly, it feels like those days all over again (thank you, inflation).

However, I’ve been thinking more about these bag rewards for another reason. Many cities and states have imposed plastic bag bans.

So, rather than seeing reusable bags as a way to save money (and the earth, of course) or using them to get a bag discount, they are now a way to avoid paying a bag fee. Granted these bag fees aren’t huge but it can add up.

bring your own bags pin

How plastic bag ban in Maine affects our shopping

We bought a house in Maine before the ban went into effect. Now, we’ve noticed this change.

When we first did our shopping at Target in Maine, this was our experience doing Target Drive up. Basically, our order came in the traditional red and white Target plastic bags.

However, starting in 2021, doing a drive-up or pick-up order at Target meant paying a five cent fee for each bag. That’s because Maine banned disposable plastic bags. So our Target order came packaged in a reusable bag, for which we paid five cents.

Of course, if you do a pick up order at Target, you could bring your own bag into the store with you. Then, a sales associate would transfer your purchase in your own bag and refund the bag fee back to your form of payment. If you’ve got a large order and many bags, this probably makes sense.

These stores, including Target, let you buy online and pick up in store.

Reasons to bring your own bag

Anyone who is a cheapskate, miser or thrifty will likely want to avoid paying five cents for each bag at the store. Also, in Maine there is a bottle deposit of five cents. So if you’re buying soda and putting your purchase in the bag, that’s five cents per bottle or can plus five cents per bag.

Nope, no thank you. I’m going to pinch my pennies (or nickels) and bring my own bag to save what I can. Then, I’m going to bring my cans and bottles back to be recycled and get my bottle deposit back, too.

However, there is a bigger reason to bring your own bag to the store–whether you live in a state or city with a plastic bag ban. And that’s reducing your contribution to landfills. 

Reducing and reusing plastic bags

As it is I’ll reuse any plastic bags I may have gotten in the past as trash can liners. Or, I’ll recycle them in the bins outside the supermarket. Those plastic bags are then turned into materials like Trex.

Also, with less waste you have less clutter. So unloading groceries doesn’t become an exercise in, “Now where are we going to store all of these bags?” Because I don’t know about you, but plastic bags seem to multiply overnight, and before I know it they’re spilling out of closets and drawers.

However, with reusable bags, you empty them, fold them up and put them away. That’s completely manageable.

Why write about the movement to bring your own bag

So, for the rest of this article, I’m going to address two topics related to bringing your own bag to the store. One, I’ll talk about retailers that still give you a discount for bringing your own bag.

And, two, I’ll share with you the cities and states where bag fees are happening. That way if you’re moving to or will be visiting one of those locations, you’ll know to bring bags with you. This will help you to avoid fees or surcharges for taking a store bag when you shop.

Store discounts when you bring your own bag

Here is my list of stores that still give you a discount when you bring your own bag to shop. Keep in mind that these discounts occur only in locations without a bag tax, fee or surcharge. 

Sadly, it seems very few stores are giving these discounts like they used to. However, for the few that do, you’ll find them here.

Rather do your grocery shopping online? This article can help.

Target bag discount

We recently shopped in person at Target. And I can report that Target is still giving shoppers a five cent discount when they bring their own bag. 

However, this Target bag discount doesn’t seem to be available anymore in places with plastic bag bans. Instead, you’ve got to look at the discount as now a savings in these locations. Because rather than paying for bags Target gives you, you are saving money not having to pay for them.
target reusable bag

Whole Foods bag discount

For the longest time Whole Foods was the most generous with a discount for bringing your own bag. Turns out in many locations, they still are.

For cities and states that don’t charge for bags, Whole Foods will give you $.10 or ten cents off for each bag you bring to the store. At one point you could donate that cumulative discount to a good cause. Not sure if that’s still true.

However, in locations with bag taxes now, such as New Jersey, you have to bring your own bags to Whole Foods. Period. 

Otherwise, the cashier will point you to reusable bags that Whole Foods sells and inform you that you have to buy them to hold your purchases. I’m sure that’s helping Whole Foods’ or rather Amazon’s bottom line.

Amazon Prime members get a discount at Whole Foods each time they shop. Sign up here today.

Where bag fees are happening

This bag fee isn’t just happening at my Target in Maine. It’s happening statewide. 

In fact, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Maine is one of 12 states and a handful of cities that have imposed plastic bag bans or bag taxes, or will do so soon. All are encouraging residents and visitors to bring reusable bags with them when they shop.

Below is a list of states (including Washington DC) with plastic bag bans in place along with the effective date or year of the ban.

  • California plastic bag ban: 2016
  • Connecticut plastic  bag ban: July 1, 2021
  • Colorado plastic bag ban: 2024. Until then shoppers are charged 10 cents per disposable bag.
  • Delaware plastic bag ban: July 1, 2021
  • Hawaii plastic bag ban: 2015
  • Maine plastic bag ban: July 1, 2021
  • New Jersey plastic bag ban: May 4, 2022
  • New York State plastic bag ban: March 1, 2020
  • Oregon plastic bag ban: January 1, 2020
  • Vermont plastic bag ban: July 1, 2020
  • Washington DC/District of Columbia plastic bag ban: October 2021
  • Washington State plastic bag ban: October 2021

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Are plastic bags recyclable

On the heels of bringing your own bags, you may be wondering if plastic bags are recyclable. Because even in states no longer giving out plastic bags with a purchase, items still come packaged in plastic.

For example, loaves of bread are still in a plastic bag. So are some bags of fruit. Similarly, when you buy in bulk at Costco, such as with toilet paper, there is still plastic wrapping.

The good news is the answer is yes, plastic bags are recyclable. However, they’ve not recyclable with your curbside trash. Plastic bags muck up recycling machinery.

Instead you can recycle all of these different kinds of plastic bags–including the poly mailers you might get when shopping online at Amazon or another store–at stores near you. Many offer free plastic bag recycling.

You’ll usually find these plastic bag recycling bins at the front of the store, such as Target. This article talks about Target and other stores that will not only recycle plastic bags but also your empty prescription bottles.

List of stores that recycle plastic bags

Here is a brief list of stores that offer plastic bag recycling. And, yes, they really do recycle these bags. In fact, recycled bags are turned into building materials like Trex and used to build park benches, sheds, decking and more. FYI, if you don’t see a store listed below that you know recycles plastic bags, please let me know.

  • Giant Eagle
  • Giant Food Stores
  • Hannaford Supermarkets
  • Home Depot
  • Kohl’s
  • Kroger
  • Lowe’s
  • Market Basket
  • Meijer
  • Shaw’s
  • Safeway
  • ShopRite
  • Sprouts Farmers Markets
  • Stop & Shop
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Wegmans
  • Weis Markets
  • Whole Foods

Final thoughts on why I bring my own bag

So whenever we go shopping anywhere, we always bring our own bag. In fact, we keep a stash of them in the trunk of our car.

If you will be visiting one of the places mentioned in this article, it’s a good idea for you to pack at least one reusable bag. That way you can avoid any bag fees because you’ve brought your own bag to the store.

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