Monday, 17 February 2014

Re-usable Shopping Bags

There has been talk of late about placing a charge on carrier bags that are issued by shops, as if this is some new innovation. However, this has been done before, and quite honestly I don’t really know why it was stopped in the first place.

When I was a child, people tended to take their own bags when they went to do their weekly shop. I remember my mother gathering together her sturdy bags without giving it a second thought. Once in a while, if she bought an extra lot of shopping that wouldn’t quite fit in the bags, she would select a cardboard box from the pile provided by the supermarket for customer use.

By the time I got a Saturday job in Fine Fare (whatever happened to them?) carrier bags were much more in evidence – but customers were charged for them. Rival supermarket Safeways (another blast from the past) provided large paper sacks, which although were more environmentally friendly, were hard to carry as they had no handles.

Re-usable bags don't have to be boring!
So basically, there were generations of shoppers who were quite prepared to provide their own shopping bags, or at least pay for the ones available in the shops.

More recently, customers have come to expect that stores will provide bags for free. Many shoppers bear little regard to the number of plastic bags that they stuff their shopping into, or give much thought to the impact on the environment.

Carrier bags have almost become a habit, they are taken for granted as part of an average shopping trip.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsburys have long offered an incentive, in the form of extra loyalty points, awarded for every reusable bag used by the customer. I have often thought incentives (points) work better than punishments (charges) but sadly in this case many customers have not been persuaded to kick the carrier bag habit.

I would quite happily see as much as 5p charged per carrier bag, with proceeds going to good causes if possible, to hopefully reduce the amount of bags used and see a return to shoppers providing reusable bags of their own. This is definitely a good habit that we should all get into.

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