Why You Should Try Returning Old Shopping Bags Before Tossing Them

Washing your reusable shopping bags is a smart habit that keeps your bags looking like new, but what should you do with a bag that is torn, tattered or otherwise too far gone to wash? Quite by accident, I discovered why bringing it back to the store where you bought it is better than just throwing it away.

For weeks I used a Whole Foods insulated bag with a broken zipper that was no longer suitable for insulating, but worked just fine as a regular grocery bag. I was a little irritated that the zipper had broken, but since it was otherwise useable, I didn't see a need to replace it. But when a friendly Whole Foods employee noticed the problem while bagging my groceries and offered to replace the broken bag for free, I took him up on it. "All of our bags have a lifetime guarantee," he said, which was news to me.

I checked with Whole Foods headquarters to see if this is a company-wide guarantee, but it turns out there is no official policy. Each store sets its own protocol, but most will accept old or unusable bags for repurposing and some, like my local Whole Foods, will exchange them for new bags.

So whether your reusable bag is from Whole Foods or another local store, it's worth asking an employee if there is a policy for returns before throwing away a worn-out bag. You might be surprised.

Are there any grocery stores in your area with a generous return policy?

Related: Local Plastic Bag Bans: How's It Going?

(Image: Whole Foods)