‘Really important’: 460,000 call on Target to ban plastic bags

Activists and shoppers carried four boxes of petition signatures to a door at Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis Thursday. (FOX 9)

Shoppers delivered nearly 460,000 petition signatures to Target Corp.’s downtown Minneapolis headquarters Thursday, calling on the company to ban plastic bags in its stores.

Minneapolis resident Theresa Carter launched the petition effort this spring, concerned about plastic bags polluting oceans and lakes. She said it has since grown into the biggest environmental petition of 2019 on the website Change.org.

“I think that’s just a testament to the fact that Target customers expect more from Target,” Carter told reporters Thursday morning. “They want them to be more sustainable and take care of the planet and the communities where we live.”

More than a dozen activists and shoppers carried four boxes of petition signatures to a door at Target’s headquarters near South 11th Street and Nicollet Mall. The delivery happened on the day after Christmas, traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Target prohibited the group from going inside the building’s lobby to drop off the boxes. Instead, a company spokeswoman came outside to accept the signatures.

The spokeswoman did not say what Target would do with the signatures. She would not answer questions from reporters.

Target’s plastic bags are made of 40 percent recycled material, Danielle Schumann, a second company spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. Target has offered recycling kiosks in its stores for plastic bags and other items since 2010.

“In addition to established efforts, Target teams across the business are working to eliminate, reduce and find alternatives for plastics in our products, packaging and operations,” she said.

Target offers a 5-cent rebate for each reusable bag a customer brings to the store. In 2018, the company issued 70 million credits totaling $3.5 million, it said on its website.

But some shoppers said the incentive falls short.

“I hear that over and over, and yet I shop at Target all the time with my bags. I see hundreds and hundreds of bags walking out of that store every time I’m there,” said Diane Hankes, who signed the petition. “It’s not working.”

Some governments have begun trying to change customers’ habits. The cities of Minneapolis and Duluth have imposed 5-cent per-bag fees. The Minneapolis ordinance takes effect next week. 

Some retailers, including Kowalski’s Markets, the Minnesota Grocers Association, and Minnesota Retailers Association, opposed the Minneapolis fee. 

Eight states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont – have banned plastic bags outright, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Target isn’t the only retailer facing the question. Trader Joe’s has eliminated carryout plastic bags, and Kroger has said it plans to phase out the bags by 2025.

“I’m just going to keep talking to Target until they make this change,” Carter said. “I think it’s really  important.”