Brits call for reduction in free carrier bags

by Michael Smith

According to a survey carried out a majority of all British people call for a reduction in the use of free carrier bags (plastic grocery bags to our Transatlantic cousins)

82% of those surveyed believe a 5p or 10p charge would encourage people to switch to reusable bags and more than 80% of people in Britain believe that retailers should stop giving away free plastic bags to their customers.

A poll by eco-bags company Reusabags ( found that 69% of respondents believe the current promise by retailers to reduce the number of bags given away by 50% by the end of spring 2010 is not enough.

More than 80% also believe a ten to fifteen pence charge on plastic bags would encourage shoppers to switch to reusable bags and 92% are worried about the impact the proliferation of free carrier bags is having on the environment.

The online poll of 2,000 people was carried out by London-based entrepreneur Chris Amos, founder of Reusabags after he read the results of a similar poll carried out by a popular UK newspaper last year.

After contacting the paper, he used the same questions to conduct his own poll and see whether attitudes had changed in the intervening months.

"The figures are up on last year's survey and people's awareness of it has increased," he told the media. "I think there's definitely a shift happening."

Mr Amos, who is originally from Australia, said he hopes the UK will follow the same trend that has already happened in his homeland, where most people already opted to use sturdy, reusable bags before a ban on free plastic bags was announced.

"In Australia it has got to a point where if you take free plastic bags at the counter you feel embarrassed," he said.

He echoed concerns raised by many of those that took part in the survey that the voluntary reductions in free plastic carrier bags being led by some of the UK's top retailers are not tough enough.

A Government-led initiative – whether that is a ban or a charging scheme – would cut plastic bag waste more quickly and ensure that more of the revenue from the sale of reusable bags is reinvested in environmental causes, he said.

But the British Retail Consortium opposes the idea of bag charging and said voluntary agreements by the major retailers are working well.

However, you literally have to have, with the exception of Sainsbury's and one or the other larger retailer, and also including Staples, to have “I do not want a bag” tattooed to your forehead for people to understand that you do not want a bag. All too often the product is in one before you can even say “no, thanks!”

In other words, whatever the BRC says, the voluntary agreements are not working, especially as only the major retailers are involved in it.

While the poll was under way, the Welsh Assembly Government announced plans to ban free plastic bags.

There is no excuse for not carrying a reusable shopping bag. Sainsbury's have down their best last year by giving those “Bags for Life” of theirs away and there are also many places where good sturdy reusable shoppers are literally given away.

On the other hand, the few quid that good version of such bags cost is a great investment, and if all else fails, you can always go and make your own. Instructions for such home-made shopping bags can be had at “”.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009