Is Walmart Really Banning Plastic Bags In All Its Stores?

This is the kind of confusion that happens when people only read the headlines. This month, the Maine radio station Moose 92 FM's website caused confusion with the headline: "Walmart is going bagless July 1st" (via Snopes). The only reason the fact-checking website Snopes had to look into it was because the headline, taken by itself, might lead people to conclude that every Walmart in the U.S. would stop providing bags at checkout.

Visit the Moose 92 FM website now, and the news team there has fixed the headline: "Maine Walmarts are going bagless July 1st." Suddenly, 99.6% of Americans are not affected by Walmart's change in policy.

There's no doubt that Walmart is part of the problem when it comes to plastic bags. They hand out between 18 and 20 billion of them every year, according to the Cape Gazette, and only 1-3% of the more than 100 billion plastic bags Americans use each year are recycled. Walmart isn't burying its head in the sand over this problem, either. (That might be hard to do, in a literal sense, given that Walmart's website acknowledges the fact that plastic bags are among the top 10 things found on beaches.) Walmart is offering incentives for inventors to come up with sustainable alternatives to bags, and the retail giant has gone bagless on a trial basis, at least, in Mexico and Vermont.

Walmart is taking Maine's new law one step further by going completely bagless in the state

Walmart happens to be going bagless in Maine — we repeat: Maine, not the entire United States — following a new state law that bans plastic bags in retail establishments, according to WGME. Mainers were originally going to deal with the plastic bag ban starting in April 2020, but it was delayed because of COVID-19. The Maine law only applies to single-use plastic bags. Statewide plastic bag bans have been established in seven other states, too, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures: California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and most of Hawaii.

If it wanted to, Walmart could offer paper bags in Maine, but the chain has decided to take the new law one step further. WJBQ reported on social media posts that show sandwich-board signs outside Walmarts in Maine that make it clear the stores are going "completely bagless," and customers will need to bring their own reusable bags. "This decision only further demonstrates the company's commitment to advancing sustainable initiatives that support people and the environment and to its ongoing efforts to target zero emissions in its global operations by 2040," Walmart told WGME.