Thursday, 10 April 2008

Green (and red and pink) Bag Day

Yesterday, we stopped giving away free plastic bags in the shop. Last October I blogged about a survey I was conducting among my customers. The overwhelming view was that customers, even those who relied on our free plastic bags, would prefer us to stop giving away 30,000 bags a year and instead look for environmentally friendly alternatives.

I have sourced five alternatives: a cotton bag selling for 95p, a biodegradable and recyclable polyethylene "Green" bag for 95p, a strong paper bag with handles for 15p and in a couple of months time, the new jute bag which stallholders in the Indoor Market will be launching, which will retail at just over £1. Finally, for a short period, until my customers have got used to bringing their own shopping bags, we shall sell a biodegradable plastic bag for 5p. I intend to phase out the biodegradable plastic bag in a few months. Although biodegradable plastic degrades within 2 years (as opposed to 200 years) it is still plastic and can still cause litter and environmental problems.

The response from customers yesterday seemed ok, in general. There were some complaints. Indeed, our very first customer of the day, having spent £20.58, refused to pay for any sort of bag, even the 5p bag, and insisted that one of my staff help her carry her shopping, unbagged, all the way to her car park!

It is really exciting that the Indoor Marker traders are going to be doing the same soon. At an informal meeting of independent shopkeepers in the town last year, I suggested that the independent trade should lead the way on this issue and promote a Darlington-wide green bag alternative. The response from the posh shops in Grange Road was, putting it politely, unenthusiastic. They refused to countenance giving up their large plastic fashion bags which primarily serve as moving advertising boards. I think they will soon be in a minority in the town, though whether the big supermarkets will pay anything more than lipservice to the whole idea remains to be seen.


Dinky Dory said...

Great idea! I will be visiting your shop tomorrow - need to stock up on some essential bits. I didn't realise it was your shop (i have my blonde moments). I will remember to bring my 15p mini ikea bag too or use my backpack.

I really dislike plastic bags. Even the long life 10p ones. I think its horrible going on a lovely ride in darlington and come accross 3-4 bags everytime in the parks, water ways or rivers. The sooner the supermarkets stop selling them the better. America doesn't have them, why should we after all!

Mike Barker said...

Thankyou, Alaina. Unfortunately I shall be down south this weekend, so I won't see you in the shop.
It's the annual international natural food and medicine trade show at Olympia on Sunday and Monday.

As usual I shall be taking in other things while I'm here. I'm in Bristol at the moment, calling in at Wild Oats and a couple of other veggie places tomorrow before a quick trip up the M4 to watch Reading v Fulham.

I called in on Unicorn natural foods in Manchester on the way down. The Obsever says it's the best natural food shop in the country. Well, apart from the huge range of organic fruit and veg, I don't think it's as good as mine!

Then it's on to London to see my eldest son, who lives at Stepney Green, and to go to the trade show. No doubt I shall come home with lots of new ideas to annoy the staff with next week!

miketually said...

Good move Mike.