Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Warning - The plastic bag is on the rise

I just read on The Guardian website that plastic bag use in Britain is once again rising after an initial fall in 2009. Figures released by the New Statesman (an official Government source) reveal that the number of bags used a month by each person in the UK fell from 11 in 2002 to 7.2 in 2009. Unfortunately this could not be sustained and figures rose to 7.7 in 2010. ‘That’s not a big rise,’ I hear you cry, however it is equivalent to 475m bags in total per month!

This has sparked the question of imposing tax on plastic bags, as seen in Ireland. In 2002 Ireland imposed a plastic bag tax resulting in a fall from 27 in 2002 to 2 on 2009. These are promising figures, but is forcing people to buy single use plastic bags the answer?

Supermarkets could simply not supply plastic bags, which could be one way of irradiating their use. Customers would have to bring their own or buy bags for life - yet supermarkets are unlikely to want to upset their customers with such drastic change.

Perhaps there should be a minimum purchase spend or minimum number of items to allow the customer to receive a free plastic bag. A huge pet hate of mine is seeing a customer carrying a sandwich or a packet of batteries in a plastic bag. Would the sandwich (already over packaged!) weigh you down if you carried it in your hand?

Customer incentives, for example extra points for reusing bags, are great methods of encouraging customers to re-use or use their own bags. I loved the idea of Tesco’s Green Clubcard points, until I realised on my receipt I was rarely rewarded. Tesco cannot expect customers to re-use bags when they cannot reward them with what they are entitled.

The bags for life on offer in supermarkets, may I put it….are somewhat… lame. I would just about remember to take them to the supermarket, but nowhere else. Maybe they should invest in designing prints that people really want to carry on their shoulders or sell bags by trendy eco-bag producers, for example Bag it Don’t Bin it. Here are a few from Bag it Don’t Bin it’s range:

To be honest, I think people have simply forgotten about the problem of plastic bags, perhaps we simply need to reinforce the issue: this video is a little weird, the plastic bag narrates the story.

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