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Apple's Bag Strategy Gets a Makeover

By Innovators FOXBusiness

Apple Inc. (AAPL) diehards may soon be feeling more environmentally aware as they tote gadgets home from their local Apple store.

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The world’s most valuable company will begin to transition from its signature drawstring plastic bags to ones made out of recycled paper on Friday. The initiative is part of a larger policy change by Apple to reduce its environmental impact.  

“This action is consistent with the actions we are taking to manage our paper supply responsibly,” according to Apple.

Reports of the shift in bag materials first surfaced last week on Apple news and reviews website 9to5Mac, which published a letter that was sent to the company’s retail employees.

According to the letter, the new bags are made from 80% recycled materials and will be available in two sizes; medium and large.

“It’s a surprise it hasn’t been done way earlier quite frankly, being in California, the fact that you’ve had to pay for [plastic] bags at grocery stores for years,” Greg Buzek, president of retail research firm IHL Group, told FOXBusiness.com.

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“A lot of people take the extreme view: We’re clear cutting forests and things like that, and certainly that’s bad for the environment to remove trees, but it is renewable. They can be replanted elsewhere. The paper aspect of it is renewable and recyclable,” he added.

Employees were told, in an effort to further reduce environmental impact, to first ask a customer buying an Apple product if they need a bag at all. Apple also urged workers to use all the plastic bags they have in stock before beginning to hand out the new paper bags.

Buzek says most Apple customers don’t use bags.

“The average transaction is 1.2 items at an Apple store…if you’ve got Apple Pay, you’ll walk in and walk right out with the item(s).”

The move comes on the heels of Apple’s “Let Us Loop You In” media event last month, where Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, announced that 99% of the company’s packaging comes from paper that is recycled or from sustainably managed forests. She added that 93% of Apple’s global facilities run on renewable energy, while its operations in the U.S. and China, among other countries, run on 100% renewable energy.

Apple dedicates an entire section of its website to “environmental responsibility,” where several projects are mentioned. The company is working with The Conservation Fund to protect more than 36,000 acres of forest in the eastern U.S., as well as partnering with the World Wildlife Fund to increase the number of responsibly managed forests in China.

Last year it also announced a $848 million commitment for clean energy with First Solar (FSLR). At the time it was the largest commercial power deal on record. The 2,900-acre solar facility will generate 130 megawatts of clean energy, “enough to power Apple Campus 2, all our other California offices, all 52 retail stores in California, and our data center in Newark, California,” according to Apple’s website. The company claims its new Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino, which is still under construction, will be the most energy-efficient building of its kind.

Coincidence or not, the paper bags initiative will be implemented exactly a week before Earth Day. This year’s theme is Trees for the Earth. The Earth Day Network has set a goal of planting 7.8 billion trees over the next five years as its 50th anniversary approaches.

Apple declined to disclose the cost to produce plastic vs. paper bags.

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