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Vancouver grocery store shames customers with embarrassing plastic bags

East West Market hopes the move will encourage its customers to bring their own reusable bags.

East West Market hopes the move will encourage its customers to bring their own reusable bags.

By Yohannes Lowe 

Independent food stores are known to use minimal packaging and encourage recycling of their produce to promote greener living.

But now one grocery shop in Vancouver has gone a step further by designing plastic bags with embarrassing slogans to discourage its customers from using single-use plastics. 

East West Market, an independent store selling only local food, hopes the move will encourage people to bring their own reusable bags to shop instead of relying on the single-use plastics many are used to.

Customers will be charged five cents per 'embarrassing' plastic bag they take, which will have messages such as ‘Weird Adult Video Emporium’ and ‘Wart Ointment Wholesale’ printed on them.

The gourmet specialist market, located on Main Street and King Edward Avenue, believes the campaign will influence people to switch to more environmentally friendly bags wherever they choose to shop.

David Lee Kwen, East West’s owner, said: “So many people own reusable bags but forget to bring them. We want to help customers remember their reusable bags in a way that will really stick with them.”

“It’s certainly generated interest in what we’re trying to put out. Once you start a conversation, it will skyrocket from there, I think,” he added.

Customers will be charged five cents per 'embarrassing' plastic bag they take .

Customers will be charged five cents per 'embarrassing' plastic bag they take .

Earlier this week, Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, announced plans to ban single-use plastics in 2021, including all grocery bags, plastic cutlery and straws.

It comes amid a global pressure for governments to get to grips with a deluge of plastics, fuelled by consumerism, which cannot be recycled and so end up in landfills around the world.

Carry that weight | Eco alternatives to carrier bags

If Waitrose is anything to go by, single-use plastic will soon be as welcome in supermarkets as a sewage leak. And the ban will include carrier bags, of course. So how will you take your reusable containers full of food and toiletries home without spilling a week’s worth of cereal, pulling a muscle, or losing your reputation as an ecological saint? Luckily, there are options. It may soon be time to pick one...

Shopper trolleys

We shouldn’t actually call them 'Granny trolleys' any more, say Let’s Get Trollied (, one of a growing number of companies attempting to rebrand the traditional wheeled carts for a younger, trendier consumer that tends to walk to their supermarket. Their colourful range, inspired by shoppers on the continent, includes trolleys that can be attached to bikes, trolleys with inbuilt seats, and 15 wheeled options for 15 different terrains. At the top of the tree is a waterproof, 49-litre “Premium” trolley with extra-large wheels, mudguards and a reflector – yours for around £300. You will look like an old lady, though.

Pouch bags

One of the more annoying things about supermarket Bags For Life is that they’re about as easy to fold away as a surfboard. Cloth tote bags, on the other hand, fold well, but don’t have the volume. The answer? A pouch bag. Like a pac-a-mac, a pouch bag – sold by various companies, such as the made-to-order Smart Bags ( – can turn a giant, sturdy holdall into a minuscule little zipped-up sack within seconds. Many come with clips, too, meaning they can always be attached to your belt, or keys, or perhaps toddler, so you’ll never forget it.

Eco string bags

Get the chic, French, I-just-popped-out-to-do-some-petit-errands look while shopping at Asda in Basingstoke. String bags scrunch up into a tiny ball but stretch to hold a huge amount of shopping – especially vegetables or baguettes. You can go even more eco by looking to Turtle Bags (, a company that makes organic string bags while raising awareness of the dangers of plastic bags for sea turtles. Double points.

Willow baskets

If you’re prepared to wander around Aldi looking as if you were pruning the towpath for Christmas holly and got lost, there’s always a traditional English willow basket as sold by, er, English Willow Baskets ( Their environmental credentials are as rock solid as their products, which are light as a feather when empty, and practically unbreakable, no matter what you put in them. A range of shapes and sizes are available, including – and here two worlds collide – a wheeled whicker granny trolley for £76.10.

Guy Kelly

Vancouver does not yet have an outright ban on single-use plastics bags the way other cities in British Columbia like Victoria and Salmon Arm do.

But Mr Kwen hopes to change local attitudes, despite saying the 1000 new bags will only probably be offered for a limited time because of the extra printing costs attached.

In the meantime, he plans to transfer the images on the plastic bags to canvas bags.