Plastic bag use slashed by nearly half
RetailWeek recently reported that the seven food retailers (Asda, Somerfield, Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Tesco, and Waitrose) who set for themselves the goal of cutting the number of carrier bags used by 50% compared with 2006 levels have made actual reductions of 48%.
This was done on the group's own initiative rather than by government mandate.
This May, 452 million bags were distributed, compared to May 2006, when 870 million were distributed in the UK. This came at a time when the participating supermarkets' sales volumes actually grew by 5%.
The different stores used a multitude of ways to encourage customers to use fewer bags, with reuse of bags being the most popular. Peter Woodall, the spokesman for the Carrier Bag Consortium says that "70% to 80% of shoppers are reusing their bags already – for school lunches, as wet gym bags or as bin liners."
Other retailer initiatives include:
1. "Bags for Life" programs in stores
2. Charging 5p for single-use bags
3. Simply asking customers if they need a bag. The answer is "no" often enough to make this work.
4. Placing bags away from the checkout, so that customers have to ask
5. Using bags with higher recycled content
6. Providing recycling facilities for bags at the front of the store
7. Rewarding bag reuse with loyalty card points
8. Media promotion of cutting bag use
9. Recording bag use at each store to motivate reduction in usage
The British Retail Consortium says the figures demonstrate that "the voluntary approach is very successful and can lead to better informed customers and lasting change." Whether this will successfully change our plastic fantastic habit and cut down on the number of carrier bags going to waste is still yet to be seen.