The day the supermarket queue stood still

Posted By: Peter Edwards - Monday, 5 October 2015  |  Comments: 0

The day the supermarket queue stood still


Co-Operative bag for life

Today will mark a new epoch, today is the day the great British landfiller, the plastic carrier bag stopped being free. No doubt we will remember this day until long after the first of them have decomposed (possibly around 1000 years from now). Given the absence of any other relevant news in the last few weeks, like for example the UN defining 17 goals to save the earth by 2030, the tabloids have been filled with stories of the ‘Plastic bag chaos’ to come. Luckily Southport our own hometown seems to have been spared the worst of this nationwide apocalypse. In fairness, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have had the charge in place for some time now and seem to have escaped unscathed. In fact we can personally testify that even the traditional scout bag packs have survived in Co-Operative Food stores across these nations.


The rules which were deemed so confusing that they might bring about the end of days are as follows:


  • All major retailers (retailers who employ over 250 people) will now have to charge a minimum of 5p for unused plastic bags at checkouts (including self-checkout).
  • For online delivery Tesco will be offering bag less delivery or a flat 40p rate for bagged delivery, along with Waitrose, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s.
  • The charge will not apply to unwrapped food i.e. raw meat and fish, pastries, bread rolls etc or to prescription medications, uncovered blades, seeds and bulbs… or live fish.
  • Don’t try and be sneaky and slip a packet of mints in with your croissant though or you will be charged (and you shouldn’t do that to goldfish anyway).


But what happens to the money afterwards? No doubt there will be many millions rioting in the streets tonight on the assumption that it’s the government/supermarkets/bloke-next-door-who-you-don’t-like who’s receiving this plastic bag windfall, but in fact the supermarkets have been told to donate this money to worthy causes and will be expected to report on this. M&S have been doing this for many years already, donating the money from bag charges to the WWF and Marine Conservation Society. Tesco have already pledged to donate the money to build parks, community gardens and sports facilities for local communities as voted for by their shoppers. While the Co-Operative Group has opted to donate the money to their charity partner: The British Red Cross.


But why have we risked the lights going out for this? No doubt the money raised will be appreciated by many, but the real reason is to cut down on their use for good. Plastic bags are a huge source of litter as well as being potentially harmful to the environment. It’s estimated that up to £10 million each year is already spent on cleaning up plastic bags in England alone and with a drop of 71% in their use in Wales after its introduction, as well as sharp drops in Northern Ireland and Scotland, we can hope to see significant gains here.


So board up your windows and lock your doors (but don’t stockpile food unless you have a bag for life) and we can all look forward to less litter and more money for charities, parks and gardens.


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