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Does Trader Joe’s Charge for Bags? (Answered)

does trader joes charge for bags

This day and age, you never know what kinds of bags a grocer will have available, and as Trader Joe’s is one of the more environmentally friendly stores it begs a question. Does Trader Joe’s charge for bags?

It actually depends on the location. While Trader Joe’s no longer carries one-use plastic bags, they do have biodegradable and recyclable brown paper bags, which will either be free or at some locations, sold for 5-10 cents each. During the pandemic, many locations no longer allow reusable bags, but you’ll need to check with your location to be sure.

Today we’re going to explore the subject in a little more depth, so that you’ll know more about Trader Joe’s policies, bagging alternatives, environmental impact, and more! Let’s take a look at the bagging basics you can expect at Trader Joe’s!

Trader Joe’s Policy on Plastic Bags

In March of 2020, Trader Joe’s stopped providing single-use plastic bags in their New York location, and things just kind of spread from there. Currently, most locations will not have them available at all, but rather will provide you with recyclable and biodegradable brown paper bags for 5-10 cents each or even for free.

Policies may vary from store to store, but we should also not that as we mentioned previously, due to the pandemic and health concerns from this, reusable bags may NOT be permissible at your local Trader Joe’s. You can contact them in advance to see if this applies to your store, as otherwise your only option will be paper bags.

Explanation of the Policy

Trader Joe’s has always been an environmentally friendly store. You’ll notice, that when it comes to organic offerings, Trader Joe’s offers an extensive amount of selections, and this is just part of their dedication to a sustainable, better environment.

As plastic does not biodegrade, by pushing the use of reusable bags and recyclable paper bags, Trader Joe’s makes a smaller environmental footprint and we can all enjoy the long terms benefits from it.

Impact of the Policy on Customers

For the most part, while the policy change took a little adjustment, most customers have been quite receptive of this policy change for its eco-friendly nature.

Unfortunately, with the rise of COVID and some locations no longer allowing reusable bags, this policy can be a little inconvenient but it’s really for the best.

Many viruses survive for longer on surfaces such as plastic or steel, than they do on tissue or paper. So, right away there is an appreciable benefit from this policy! While paper bags are more prone to breakage, double bagging can certainly help until reusable bags will once again be allowed at Trader Joe’s.

Reasons for Charging for Plastic Bags

In Trader Joe’s locations that do still allow plastic bags, but charge for them, there is a good philosophy behind this practice from an environmental standpoint. Let’s examine the reasoning behind it so that you can see what we mean.

Environmental Sustainability

By charging for plastic bags, the specific Trader Joe’s locations are discouraging their use. Generally the scenario will be that the recyclable paper bags will be free of charge, while a 5 – 10 cent charge will be in place for plastic.

As plastic isn’t biodegradable, charging for the bags is a tried-and-true method that helps to reduce their use.  

Reduction of Plastic Waste

Less plastic in landfills is ideal, as plastic grocery bags are going to simply sit there for a long time. That’s because it takes 1000 years for it to effectively degrade. During this time, the waste is still dangerous, as animals looking for food in waste cans or landfills can get caught in the plastic loops and be suffocated.

Compliance with Local Laws

An enormous factor in whether or not your local Trader Joe’s will even have plastic bags is local law. For instance, in March of 2020 when Trader Joe’s stopped carrying them, this was largely due to a New York law that stated single-use grocery bags had to go as of March 1st 20202.

Depending on your own local laws, this may or may not be the case, so you’ll need to call your local Trader Joe’s if you are a first-time customer and expecting plastic bags to be available for use.

Alternatives to Plastic Bags

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Plastic bags are certainly not the only way to get your groceries home, so what about the alternatives? In this section, we’ll review your options for getting your groceries home without making an environmental impact.

Reusable Bags

Reusable bags are a great way to get your groceries home. While current pandemic policies dictate that this may or may not be allowed at your location, when they are allowed they are really quite convenient. You have all of the space that you need and reusable bags are much more durable than single use.

Paper Bags

Paper bags come with the perk of being biodegradable and recyclable. In a landfill, within 1 month’s time they will be fully degraded, and as they are made from trees the impact on the environment is pretty much zero!

The caveat, unfortunately, if that they can break with cold or moist items, so double bagging is sometimes called for to offset this possibility.

Boxes and Baskets

Boxes and baskets are another good way to get items home, although you will, of course, need to bring them.

That said, one perk that you might not know about is that Trader Joe’s often has free boxes that you can pick up in the morning or the late evening.

If you stock up on a few, then you could bring them to put your groceries into, or if you are only picking up a few items then bringing a basket also makes for a quick and stylish solution.

To check the current price and availability of reusable Trader Joe’s Bags, click here to view the selection on Amazon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Trader Joes paper bags free?

At some locations, the paper bags will be 100% free of charge, but that will depend on the particular location – there is no set standard. If you are charged,  it will typically be 5-10 cents per bag.

How much do Trader Joe’s bags cost?

When there is a charge for the bags, it is typically 5 to 10 cents per bag, with reusable bags also being sold for $2.99 at most locations.

Does Trader Joe’s still give out bags?

At some locations, yes, the bags will be free, but you should check in advance in order to be sure as the policy can vary from store to store.

Final Thoughts

Today we’ve answered the question ‘Does Trader Joe’s charge for bags’ and the answer is ‘most stores won’t, but some will charge 5 – 10 cents per bag’.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that in most locations, plastic bags are a thing of the past, so you’ll need to use the provided brown paper bags which are environmentally friendlier.

While reusable bags may not be allowed due to the pandemic, as many people are vaccinated there is a possibility that your location will allow it, but it’s important to call and ask first if you don’t want to use the brown paper bags. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s definitely better in the long run!


Shane is a fitness enthusiast who also has a passion for trying and cooking new foods. His favorite stores to shop at include Trader Joe's, Wholefoods Market, Sprouts, Stater Brothers, and Target.

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