Monday, 13 July 2009

Reducing the use of Plastic Carrier Bags in retail

One of the most succesfull campaigns about plastic carrier bags was where the market town of Modbury in Devon banned all shoppers from using plastic carrier bags. People were instead provided with biodegradable cornstarch, recyclable paper or reusable cotton and jute bags.

In 2007, hundreds of rich fashionistas queued outside Sainsbury’s to buy a bag designed by Anya Hindmarsh (a designer, see left for an example) carrying the slogan “I’m not a plastic bag”. For a while this became the latest must-have accessory.

In February 2007, the retail industry agreed to reduce the overall environmental impact of carrier bags by 25 per cent by the end of 2008. This is a comprehensive objective aimed at cutting the total amount of raw materials and energy used in bag manufacture and minimising the effect of their disposal. This will involve: reducing the environmental impact (using alternative materials and lighter weight bags); encouraging customers to take or use fewer bags; and enabling the recycling of bags, eg by offering collection facilities.

7 billion plastic bags are given away annually in the UK of which only 1 in 200 are recycled, according to The Guardian. Environmental groups complain that the bags use up natural resources, consume energy to manufacture, create litter, choke marine life and add to landfill waste. It goes without saying, of course, that all those copies of The Guardian, its supplements and blasted wallcharts never add to global warming.

London Councils are to urge the Government to allow them to set a charge of 10p per bag in London. Retailers would oppose this as being too comprehensive.

Waitrose is trialing baglessness: free carrier bags have been removed from all checkouts at the Saffron Walden store and at selected checkouts in fourteen other stores for a two-week trial in May. No results provided yet.

Meanwhile The Guardian is campaigning to encourage shoppers and retailers to support the first ever national plastic bag-free Christmas. We Are What We Do hopes to persuade retailers to tell shoppers that they will not automatically get a plastic bag, and to display a colourful logo saying "Plastic Ain't My Bag". Who thinks these things up?

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