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Sales tactic spotted in grocery store sparks debate online: 'Absolutely wasteful'

"Yes, they go in the bin at the end of the sale cycle."

"Yes, they go in the bin at the end of the sale cycle."

Photo Credit: iStock

Sales are meant to send goods flying off the shelves. The goods, however, aren't the only things that find their way off the shelves and into the world. 

A Reddit post recently called attention to a practice one commenter called "Genuinely soul crushing" and shined a light on the dark side of sales. 

What's happening?

In a post to the r/Anticonsumption subreddit, a shopper shared a photo of a grocery store aisle, with shelves lined the whole way down with plastic sale tags. 

"The amount of trash these sale tags generate. Each week a different sale, a different tag. They must throw out thousands of pounds of tags a week across the entire company," read the caption above the photo. 

"Yes, they go in the bin at the end of the sale cycle."
Photo Credit: Reddit

The image is disheartening, to say the least. 

"I work for one of the big chains and am part of the team that puts them up/takes them down each week. On average it's about five and a half thousand every week. Yes, they go in the bin at the end of the sale cycle," commented one user. "Absolutely wasteful."

"[I] used to work in the pricing department of a grocery store, there's so much waste that goes into price tagging," agreed another.  

Why is the practice concerning?

To put it simply, garbage is a problem. The Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2018, the total generation of municipal solid waste was 292.4 million tons — a number that has undoubtedly grown. 

Plastic waste is a particular problem. In the United States, about 40 million tons of plastic waste is thrown away each year, around 80% of which ends up in landfills, where it can take an estimated 500 to 1,000 years to break down. 

As it breaks down, it creates microplastics — tiny plastic particles less than five millimeters long that are incredibly invasive. Scientists have yet to understand the full impact of these particles on human and environmental health, but they have been found choking our waterways, in the stomachs of dead wildlife, and even in human lungs and hearts

Is the company doing anything about this?

While the post does not specifically name the company, an ad reveals that it is Walgreens. The company's website shares some green initiatives, one of which is offering green shopping bags as an alternative to plastic — albeit for purchase, an option many can't opt for. 

What can be done more broadly to help?

As one commenter pointed out, there is no need for these plastic tags. 

"Aldi started using these electronic shelf labels," they said. "They look pretty interesting."

Hopefully, more stores will adopt similar options. Until then, we can all hold big companies with wasteful practices like these sale tags accountable while also limiting the addition of new plastic trash to the environment by changing the way we buy and use plastic.

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