Interchangeable in the best sense of the word.
Every year the incredible amount of 600 billion plastic bags is produced worldwide. The average German consumer uses 65 of those each year, in America the consumption amounts to 300 bags (meaning that the average person demands a new plastic bag almost every day).
After having been used for few minutes, those bags take up to 500 years for decomposing. Especially in countries with no advanced waste management and recycling system those plastic bags jam sewage drains, are being eaten by wildlife and demolish the natural scenery. According to the UN, plastic is the most destructive source when it comes to the world’s oceans.
While probably most of German consumers are aware that plastic bags are an environmental issue, bringing along durable cotton or jute bags for shopping requires planning. Disregarding the financial imposition on consumers – buying a new cotton bag with every purchase (instead of a new plastic bag) would not necessarily limit the environmental impact. So, how to reduce the amount of environmentally harmful plastic bags, neither sending customers home without bags juggling with purchases nor charging them for a fresh recyclable bag each time?
dm, a German drugstore chain also present in eleven other European countries, launched the so called “Pfandtasche”: an interchangeable bag with refundable deposit.
The Pfandtasche can be bought – or rather rented – at a price of €2. Of course customers are free to keep the bag forever. But also most welcome to exchange it for a new one in case it caught dirt or has been damaged. It is also possible to bring it back and claim the deposit.
The bags are available in different colors. More importantly, they do not only please the eye, but also provide a good consciousness regarding their production process: manomama, a Augsburg-based company, hand-crafts the bags from 100% organic cotton. Dyeing is done with colors in organic quality according to the guidelines of the International Association of Natural Textile Industry, too. Moreover, returned bags are recycled for yarn production.
Unfortunately, dm does not quantify the reduction in plastic bag demand in its German and Austrian stores where the Pfandtasche has to date been introduced. But praise for the initiative can be found all over the internet, and it stands to hope that it serves as an example to other retailers – especially those with high purchase frequency, as they offer the biggest plastic prevention potential.
Apart from the positive environmental impact, the Pfandtasche benefits the city of Augsburg, historically well-known for its textile expertise, by providing new jobs in the traditional industry.