For the want of a paper bag
Friday, January 12, 2018
Jo Francis is frustrated that many retailers are not offering an obvious alternative to single-use plastic bags.
This week the government has confirmed plans to roll out the 5p plastic carrier bag charge to smaller shops across England, with charges having already come into effect in other parts of the UK.
Since October 2015 large stores in England have been required to charge consumers 5p per bag, which has drastically reduced the use of plastic bags, by more than 80%, resulting in nine billion (nine billion!) fewer bags being used.
What’s been disappointing, from my point-of-view is the apparent lack of uptake of an obvious alternative that has excellent renewable materials and recyclability creds – the good old paper bag.
It’s actually pretty annoying when the only bag option for shoppers is to purchase an unwanted plastic bag.
This happened to me recently when buying some books at Waterstones. I had my own sturdy shopping bag with me. What I wanted was a nice paper bag to put the books in so they would be protected from all my other shopping. But no, said the assistant, there were no paper bags available, only plastic.
Come on James Daunt, sort this out! Some nice branded paper bags would be an ideal option here.
It’s the same story in many other large retailers, and you will find moans aplenty on social media from shoppers who are understandably affronted that after spending considerable sums on, say, a new coat at M&S they are then expected to stump up for a bag in which to take it away.
And although Primark has been something of a trailblazer in the use of mass market paper carrier bags, other retailers just don’t seem to be following suit.
Why on earth not?
Hopefully the ongoing outcry over the plastics crisis will cause a rethink. In the meantime, I hope all the paper bag manufacturers out there are making the most of the renewable, sustainable zeitgeist to increase sales of their wares.