Medellin-based Exito, Environment Ministry, WWF Promote Reusable Grocery Bags
In a new campaign aiming to slash water and land pollution caused by reckless disposal of plastic grocery bags, Medellin-based retail giant Exito is teaming-up with Colombia’s Environment Ministry and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to promote broader adoption of reusable grocery bags.
Launching of the national “ReemBOLSA” campaign – attended by officials at an Exito grocery store in Bogota — aims to awaken consumers to the “grave consequences” of the careless disposal of millions of plastic grocery bags, many of which wind-up in rivers and oceans, harming wildlife and turning pristine environments into ugly garbage dumps.
The new campaign – endorsed by the national government – means that Colombia is now joining 70 other nations that are moving to restrict or ban disposable plastic grocery bags, according to the Environment Ministry.
Exito Lauds Move
In an April 28 press release endorsing the “ReemBOLSA” campaign, Exito pointed out that only 7% of Colombians regularly employ reusable grocery bags, whereas Exito aims to cut plastic-bag use in its stores by at least 9% this year, on top of the 8.8% reduction achieved last year.
To encourage “green” consumer behavior, the company is now offering four new reusable bags – costing just COP$3,000 (about US$1) each — featuring spectacular images of Colombian environmental landscapes and animals. The bags are available at the company’s “Exito,” “Carulla,” “Surtimax” and “Super Inter” retail grocery stores, where some 9 million customers regularly shop.
Among the bag images: photographs of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains; the endangered Sloth Bear; the stunning, multi-colored Caño Cristales river; and a Colombian hummingbird, paired with the main title from the Exito-funded Colombia Magia Salvaje feature film.
Some 420,000 of these reusable bags were purchased by Exito and Carulla customers last year. The company additionally recycled another 1,148 tons of plastics in 2015, according to Exito.
“Among the permanent preoccupations that we have as a company is to seek alternatives that enable us to measure, mitigate and compensate for the impact of our operations on the environment,” according to Grupo Exito president Carlos Mario Giraldo.
“The issue of [disposable] bags has been one of our priorities . . . We continue to work on this in various fronts, including [offering] bags of better caliber that enable less packaging [as well as] permanent promotion of reusable bags,” plus “awareness campaigns among our employees as well as consumers,” he said.
“Going from six to five plastic bags in a week doesn’t have a big impact on the lives of people, but it does have an impact on the environment. The goal is that all Colombians move beyond thinking to action,” Giraldo added.
In a related effort, Exito now puts small proof-of-purchase stickers on certain products at its store checkout counters, rather than relatively wasteful bagging of such purchases. Exito customers using reusable bags rather than disposable bags also can win extra “loyalty” credits for future purchases at company stores.