There’s no doubt about it, we’ve become a nation of plastic carrier bag dependent shoppers. Why are so many people so reluctant to make use of more permanent, reusable shopping bags?
When I was a child, everyone seemed to go shopping armed with a collection of bags in which to stow their groceries. For those who preferred not to use this option, supermarkets tended to keep a healthy supply of cardboard boxes close to the checkouts, which were certainly handy to transport heavier, bulkier items.
Over the years, however, it has become more the norm for shoppers to expect plastic carrier bags to not only be supplied, but to be provided free of charge.
In my teens I had a Saturday job at Fine Fare (there’s a blast from the past) who at that time made bags available (some early bags were paper) but at a cost. But as time went on, supermarkets introduced a limitless supply of plastic carrier bags – and all for free!
Some supermarkets do offer incentives to reuse bags, in the form of points for loyalty card holders, but this it would seem is not sufficient encouragement to induce shoppers to break the habit.
Now there are calls to charge for all plastic carrier bags in shops, a move with which I wholeheartedly agree. What’s wrong with reusing bags, which can be bought very cheaply in the first place, thus reducing the impact that all of this surplus plastic is making on the environment.
The proposed charge is 5p per single use plastic carrier bag, thus mirroring a system already employed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Hopefully, this will discourage their use at least to some degree, reducing the estimated 60,000 tonnes of plastic carrier bags used per year. For those who still opt to use the bags despite this move, the hope is that the money raised can at least be diverted to ‘good causes’. Ideally, I would hope, more environmentally friendly incentives.
Cloth bags are a stronger option, which are not too bulky or heavy, and prove no hardship to take with you on a shopping trip. Yes, you do have to remember to take them in the first place, but it’s just a question of learning a new habit!
Where do you stand on the plastic carrier bag debate?