Jayne Dowle: Move to charge for carrier bags may wear a bit thin

0
Have your say

I’m fascinated by this latest Government investigation. Apparently, the typical English household has 40 plastic carrier bags stashed for safe keeping. Has the “resource Minister”, Rory Stewart, ever been down my cellar steps? If he had, he would find that I’ve squirrelled away rather more than 40 of the blighters.

I’m fascinated by this latest Government investigation. Apparently, the typical English household has 40 plastic carrier bags stashed for safe keeping. Has the “resource Minister”, Rory Stewart, ever been down my cellar steps? If he had, he would find that I’ve squirrelled away rather more than 40 of the blighters.

Such is my guilt at taking carrier bags from shops, I can’t bear to throw a single one away. That’s why every corner of our cellar is overflowing with bags full of bags, stored for “just in case”. Just in case of what? That’s the question the rest of the family ask me every time they venture down there in search of something like a hammer or a bicycle pump and find their way blocked by an exploding sack of Asda’s finest.

Well, for all their sarcastic comments, I can tell them now that I’ve got a reason for saving these precious items. From October, all shops with more than 250 employees will be officially ordered to charge five pence per carrier bag. Smaller stores may still give them away free, but can charge if they like. It’s happened in Wales already. It’s happened in Scotland. 
And in both these countries, the use of plastic bags has plummeted. The retail world hasn’t come to an end. And their environment will be better for it.

Paying for the privilege will certainly put my hoarding habit into perspective. In fact, I might drag every single one of my carriers out of the cellar one sunny day and have a sale in the front garden, just to get my neighbours ready for the change that’s coming. I reckon I’d make a bigger profit from it than the one I gain on my Morrison’s Match & More card every month. By Christmas, my humble carrier bags could become a prize greater than rubies. Mark Zuckerberg might have a challenger for his crown as richest man in the world.

Perhaps I am getting slightly carried away. However, it is clear that something must be done about the number of carrier bags we use in this country. Believe it or not, British shoppers took home more than 8.5 billion single-use carrier bags from supermarkets in 2014. That’s scary enough. What’s worse though is that this is 200 million more than in the previous 12 months, according to figures compiled by the recycling charity WRAP.

How come, when we are being badgered from all corners to reduce waste, we are using more and more of these bags every year? One argument – and I’m in agreement – is that to cut costs retailers are making their bags thinner. Indeed, they do seem to split in half if you add more than a carrot and a couple of potatoes, so it stands to reason that we will use more of them. Let me tell you, there is nothing more embarrassing than your entire shopping rolling away from you in the supermarket car park. And yes, this has happened to me more than once. It is especially galling if said shopping involves a bottle of wine.

Can I make a plea then? If we are to pay for our bags, will retailers please keep their side of their bargain and make them stronger and more durable? I’m not minded to hand over five pence a time for an item with the consistency of tissue paper. And while we’re about it, please can retailers think about this is in the widest terms possible? There is no sense in putting all the onus on the shopper. Shop assistants need to stop foisting the things on us for a start.

This is a tricky one to pull off, I admit. I don’t like the habit in certain stores of the cashier asking rather sanctimoniously if I have “brought my own bags”. Even if I have, I always feel a bit picked on. A woman should surely be allowed the right to choose. Or at least to hide the fact that she did bring her own bag but has managed to leave it in the back of the car. Again.

What’s worse though are those shops which insist that we always take a bag, or bags. Only the other day in the pound shop I had to forcibly prevent
the assistant from shoving all my purchases into an array of flimsy plastic carriers. I was especially aggrieved because I had actually brought my newly-acquired canvas shopping bag with me, a gift from a friend who makes them out of fabric scraps. The lad on the till just didn’t have the patience to wait whilst I arranged my purchases in its capacious folds.

I’m loving my shopping bag’s retro charm – and its eco-friendly credentials – so much that I’m beginning to get a yearning for something bigger and
more mobile. Yes, I’ve got my eye on a shopping trolley. The kids are aghast. The partner is threatening to boycott all future retail missions. This could turn into something even more embarrassing than the stash of carrier bags festering in my cellar. If it saves me five pence every time I go to the shop though, I could be onto a winner.