Friday, 12 November 2010

Bags of Disappointment

The following 'clipping' is from the UK newspaper, The Times, yesterday (11th November), written by Ben Webster (environment editor):

Supermarkets have abandoned their commitment to halve the number of plastic bags they issue after a backlash from some shoppers.

Retailers are instead proposing merely to continue measuring the number of bags they give away and to reduve it over time, without setting any targets.

Shoppers used more than six billion single-use bags last year, an average of 100 for every member of the population. The bags take up to 1,000 years to decompose and millions litter parks and pollute rivers.

Seven of the biggest supermarket chains, Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, the Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose, clsimed last year that they had "narrowly missed" their voluntary target to reduce the number of bags by 50 per cent between 2006 and spring last year.

Over the financial year, from April 2009 to March this year, bag use fell by 43 per cent compared with 2006. But there are signs that usage is rising, with 23 million more bags handed out in May than during the same month last year, a 5 per cent increase.

Bob Gordon, head of environment at the British Retail Consortium, said: "The 50 per cent target is history. We are seeking contiunul improvement, with no specific target."

Some supermarkets had dropped their commitment to remove single-use bags from view at checkouts, he said. "It was too much of a flashpoint at the till and customers were causing too much of a scene about it."

My thoughts
It's a pretty sad state of affairs, really. I can understand that a small percentage of customers might rant about the removal of bags from view, but has it really caused huge scenes in the supermarket? The number of complaints can't surely be more than one in ten customers, if that (i.e. 10 per cent).

The progress that has been made since the initial pledge by retailers may not be as great as I would like, but it is progress none-the-less, and it's terrible to throw that away. Does it mean that customers have stopped thinking about plastic bags? Was it just a fad? I'm genuinely surprised, especially since WHSmiths started charging for bag usage.

I feel some letter writing coming on. In one of the letters I recieved from Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), regarding the voluntary commitment made, David Hands says: "As this is a voluntary agreement it is up to each company to decide on their own strategy for the aims to be achieved. Whilst this is a voluntary agreement, the Government has reserved the right to take steps if the terms of the agreement are not met, though this will be subject to the Review."

So, are the goverment going to take steps seeing as the terms of the agreement have not been met - and seeing as the agreement has now been abandoned?

1 comment:

  1. It is a shame to see plastic bag use on the up :(

    At Tesco, If you reuse any bag in store, rather than a new one, Tesco will give you one point for each bag reused. They don’t have to be Tesco bags – any bag you reuse gets you a point. So far, over 3 billion carrier bags have been saved.

    Plus Tesco is now pioneering biodegradeable plastic bags, breaking down within 3 years of manufacture into water, carbon dioxide and biomass.

    Shoppers should really be bringing in their own bags to shop, but people often forget.