Friday, 19 October 2007

30,000 plastic carrier bags

That's how many my shop gave away last year. Today's Shoptalk column in the Northern Echo, written by the ever-readable Sharon Griffiths (wife of Mike Amos and mum to Owen), features an article about our campaign to wean our customers away from the plastic bag.

Unfortunately, the article does not appear in the Echo's on-line edition, so I'll reproduce the article here:

"Time to bag an eco opportunity"

"Congratulations to Mike Barker of The Health Warehouse in Darlington, who is trying to encourage his customers to use fewer plastic carrier bags.

"Last year the shop gave away almost 30,000 free bags. Nationwide we use 17 billion a year and they take over 100 years to decompose. The best alternative, of course, would be if we all did what our grannies did and took our own bags when shopping.

"Failing that the alternatives seem to be bio-degradable plastic bags, which still take two years to decompose (and leech plastics into the soil and water table), compostable biobags which contain no plastic and decompose completely, but cost at least 4p each or longlife cotton bags which the shop currently sells at cost price (40p) with a donation to Friends of the Earth. Or they and other shops could charge for carrier bags and concentrate our minds a little.

"The Health Warehouse is currently surveying its customers using a questionnaire to see what they should do. A town in Devon has already banned plastic bags. The WI is trying to wean us off our dependency.

"Despite all the crack of dawn queues for the designer "this is not a plastic bag" bag from Sainsbury's, I don't think I've seen a single one being used. Probably all being flogged on eBay.

"The world survived before plastic carrier bags were invented. It might be tricky to do so now, but we could at least try."

On the basis of questionnaire returns so far, I think we shall be replacing our plastic bags with non-plastic compostable bags, but we shall have to charge the cost price of 4p and 9p for each according to the size, with our cotton bags still available for a bargain 40p. If we don't charge for the carrier bags it will cost us over £2000 a year!

This is a two-way thing: it's not just us shopkeepers who cause the problem, it's you shoppers who don't bring your own shopping bags with you. The supermarkets, of course, will never be weaned away from giving away all these plastic bags, unless legislation is brought in to require alternatives to be provided, or a tax is put on plastic bags. Small initiatives like mine make a statement, but will have no impact at all on the supermarkets.


Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes...

The Irish introduced a charge on plastic bags and we in this country were going to do the same, but then it all went quiet and was not introduced.

Aeres said...

This reminds me - ages ago you blogged about some bags that had been made out of plastic drinks cartons, which my wife really liked the look of. Did you ever get around to stocking them Mike as I don't think I've ever seen them?

Very commendable that you're doing the degradable bags at cost price - although I've little doubt that big business wouldn't quite be so quick to turn down the opportunity of making a few pennies per bag if legislation ever came to fruition.

miketually said...

Well done for making the move away from plastic bags.

We still get funny looks in the supermarket when we turn down offers to bag up the veg.

miketually said...

Related: Buy It Naked