Supermarket Bans Bags, for One Day

English supermarket chain Sainsbury's are boycotting disposable plastic bags for one day, and give out free reusable bags instead. The chain normally charge 10p for these, and have estimated that the scheme, running on Friday next week, will cost them £700,000.

Sainsbury's bags have been in the news recently, in September they changed their design to include one third recycled materials. The store also began awarding loyalty points for every bag that customers avoided using at stores. Although how this was measured I don't know; I can see how you count bags that people do use, but not how you could count the bags that they don't.

On their website, Sainsbury's offer an explanation as to why they don't charge for bags all year round;

"We did a 'pay-for' trial some years ago where we did charge the cost price for carrier bags to our customers, but our customers where not happy and complained. From these trials we decided to stop charging our customers for carrier bags and fall in line with other retailers."

This seems like a missed opportunity. Sainsbury's discovered how reluctant people would be to pay for bags, and therefore how likely they would be to use reusable bags, and decided to carry on as before. That doesn't seem to be the action of a company that truly has a commitment to the environment.

With most of the food market in the UK dominated by three chains, it seems that a mutual pact or organisation, whose members committed to charge for disposable bags would be both practical and beneficial. It would drastically reduce plastic waste in this country, without negatively impacting sales for members, as long as enough stores joined.

Perhaps TreeHugger could act as the head of such a movement? Shops could register with us, and pledge their commitment to charge cost price for disposable bags. If Sainsbury's, Tesco and Asda all became members, then so would every other supermarket in England. In other countries, where paying for bags is the norm, then people tend to take their own bags. Perhaps legislation is needed, to force this behavior upon nations that don't have that preexisting culture? :: The Guardian

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