The plastic bags given out at East West Market were supposed to shame customers out of using them. Instead, they've become collectors' items of sorts, because customers think they're irreverently cool. Management had hoped the bags at the Vancouver store—designed with what the New York Times calls "cringeworthy" messages like "Colon Care Co-Op" and "Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium"—would spur customers to switch to reusable bags, because the eyebrow-raising messages would really make them think about what the bags were doing to the environment. But now, store owner David Lee Kwen tells the Guardian, "some of the customers want to collect them because they love the idea of it."
"They're obviously fake and kind of funny, and now that the entire region knows they are purposefully embarrassing I'm even more inclined to get one," one customer tweeted. "I might even buy extra bags to give to people for lols." Still, Kwen doesn't think his plan totally backfired. "Even if you have the bag, you have to explain its origin to your friends. And then, we've started a conversation," he tells the Guardian. A member of an anti-plastic pollution group agrees with Kwen, noting to the Times that the campaign was a "great piece of anti-plastic PR" that now has people talking. Kwen, who only printed up 1,000 of the plastic bags, says he'll keep the conversation going by transferring the messages to canvas bags in the future. The issue may be short-lived anyway: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hopes to eliminate single-use plastic by as early as 2021. (Read more plastic bags stories.)