Waste Management

  • Should Shops Remove Plastic Bags Completely?

Should Shops Remove Plastic Bags Completely?

Mar 31 2019 Read 537 Times

Plastic bags, along with other single-use plastic items like cutlery, straws and coffee cups, are a leading contributor to the huge amounts of plastic waste that pollute our seas and oceans. Cognisant of this fact, British and international authorities have been calling for a clamp down on these ubiquitous but damaging commodities, with European governments campaigning for an 80% reduction in the distribution of free plastic bags in supermarkets five years ago.

In the intervening time, the UK government has brought in a 5p charge for those wishing to buy a plastic bag from any retailer which employs more than 250 staff, leading to an 80% reduction in the consumption of the bags in England since its introduction. However, German budget supermarket Aldi have now announced plans to go one further by removing plastic bags for sale from their stores entirely in a bid to encourage customers to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Leading by example

Last month, Aldi announced that it would stop selling 5p plastic bags with immediate effect, in a bid to remove 80 million bags from circulation every single year. Recent governmental research found that despite the fact that the average British household has around 40 plastic bags in the home, plastic bag consumption in supermarkets rose again for the fifth consecutive year prior to the implementation of the 5p charge in October 2015.

However, Aldi believe that more can be done to tackle the problem and are currently trialling an alternative receptacle made from cotton in a select number of its stores across the country. Since this time last year, Aldi has also replaced over 2,500 tonnes of plastic packaging with sustainable alternatives and hopes to achieve 100% recyclability and biodegradability on all of its produce by 2022.

Following suit

While Aldi’s environmental efforts may be impressive, they are not alone in looking to clean up their act. Morrisons also recently announced its intention to increase the price of a standard plastic bag from 10p to 15p, while paper alternatives are available at 20p apiece. The American-style option is being trialled at eight stores across the country over a period of eight weeks to ascertain how well it performs and how popular the paper alternatives are with the public.

“When we listen to customers they want us to help them reduce the amount of plastic they have in their lives,” explained Andy Atkinson, marketing director for the supermarket. “These new paper bags do exactly the same job as standard plastic carrier bags. They are tough, reusable and can help keep a large amount of plastic out of the environment.”

An important issue

With plastic waste in our rivers and oceans an ever-increasing problem, Aldi said that the issue was one close to their heart. “The environmental impact of single-use plastic bags is no secret, and removing them from our stores is an important step on our mission to eradicate plastic wherever possible,” said a spokesperson. “Our customers trust us not only to offer them high quality products at unbeatable prices, but to help them lead more environmentally friendly lives.”

While preventing the plastic from entering our waterways will be an integral way of reducing plastic pollution, it does not help with the trillion of pieces of plastic which are already present in the environment. To address this issue, a more sophisticated approach may be required; at present, scientists are currently investigating the unlikely combination of forensic science and artificial intelligence to quickly and efficiently clean up our oceans.

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