I’m glad I finally wrote that shopping bag post when I did, or it would look as if I was responding to the news that M&S is going to charge for plastic bags again. They used to, you know, until about 30 years ago. It’s a relatively recent thing that they’ve been given away and it was in response to consumer pressure “I’ve spent £20 and you are charging 4p a time for plastic bags?” And indeed, they were quite expensive. It wasn’t just a nominal penny or so. A charge of 5p now, while making a sizeable profit (which M&S will give to environmental charities), is not really enough to notice.
You might wonder why the focus on plastic carrier bags? The point is that they are 100% unnecessary and that it’s something that, with only a small degree of care on our part, we can do without. It’s like turning off the tap while cleaning your teeth, or not filling the kettle to the brim for a mugful or two – if you do it, it becomes normal. Yes indeed, sometimes in the home a plastic bag is useful, for messy rubbish, cleaning up after your dog or whatever – but most of us acquire far more than we really need for that.
But there again, we can all get caught out. I keep bags in my coat pocket, in the car and often have one in my handbag, but a couple of weeks ago I was moved to call into Waitrose, and bought more than could fit in the two bags I’d brought. So the larger items went back into the trolley and then the car, unwrapped, and the rest went into one extra bag. If I’d not had a car, it would have been too much to carry actually, so I’d have bought less (when on foot, never use a trolley…).
It’s like a diet (don’t worry, I’ve another place to bore people about my diet). If you eat something you *shouldn’t* it’s better to accept it and work out why you did it and how you’ll make sure it doesn’t happen very often than to say that this proves that you are unable to diet and spend the rest of the day filling your face. Similarly, use as few bags as possible, make sure you reuse them – and for shopping if possible. When they are about to fall apart, then use them as bin bags.
It’s oddly satisfying, you know, refusing carrier bags. Al’s customers boast about remembering their own, but no one nags if they haven’t got one. They are offered a box (I also remember that supermarkets used to have a stack of boxes near the checkout for customers’ use) or an onion sack, free, or a cornstarch bag at cost price – which is 10p for a standard carrier bag size. I’m sure the cost comes down if they’re bought in huge quantity, but Al could buy plastic bags for a tenth of the price. If your local shop starts to give away cornstarch bags, remember that the cost will be reflected in higher prices.