The good news is that disposable plastic bag use in supermarkets has fallen by 80% since the 5p charge was introduced in England a year ago. Yet, although the 5p charge largely goes to charity, it seems that we’re going to great lengths to avoid this levy.
According to BusinessWaste.co.uk, the tiny five pence fee is a red line for many people, who would rather stuff their pockets with frozen peas than have to carry them home in the “bag of shame”.
“Two things became clear on day one of the scheme,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. “First, there’s no way on Earth you’ll part people with five pence for a plastic bag; and second, these same people will go to any length to find alternatives.”
Here are some of the more unusual answers they received:
- Builder’s bucket (“I’m a builder, I’ve got loads of buckets. What a money-saver”)
- Car blanket tied up at all four corners (“I do it all the time now, the till operators think it’s very clever”)
- Cycle helmet (“Which means I had to push the bike home. Swings and roundabouts, as they say”)
- Dog poo bag (“I’ve always got a few in my pocket, and they hold more than you expect. Better still, they’re free from the council offices!”)
- Pair of trousers tied up at the ankles (“They were in the back of the car, they saved me at least 20p on bags, and hardly anybody laughed at me, so that’s a plus”)
- Coat with loads of pockets (“I leave the supermarket looking like a very successful shoplifter, so getting past the security guard is always a challenge”)
- Baby’s pram (“An old-fashioned one with all the springs and such. All my children are grown up, mind you”)
- Suitcase (“Suitcases are completely under-rated as a shopping bag alternative. Think about it – they’re only used once a year when you go on holiday, so why let them go to waste? Top tip: Make sure it’s one with wheels”)
And as for giving supermarket single-use plastic bags a name, Hall has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek: “Perhaps they should print ‘Bag of Shame’ on the side of supermarket plastic bags after all,” muses Hall, “That’ll drive the numbers down even further.”
BusinessWaste.co.uk campaigns for tighter laws to discourage littering, wasteful behaviour, and to encourage greater recycling.