Friday, January 21, 2011

Plastic Bags

tesco's green bag
There's a recent move by the government for supermarkets to 'sell' plastic bags on Saturdays. Well, that's the way I see it. The objective is to 'teach' consumers to limit their usage of plastic bags, and be more environmentally conscious due to the fact that plastic bags are a burden to the environment. They degrade slowly, if they do at all. Thus, on Saturdays, supermarkets would charge their customers 20 sen for each bag that they issue out.
However, let's look at the alternatives that are being offered by the supermarkets. No bag at all, or at 20 sen per piece, or you can buy the store's own nicely designed reusable shopping bag.
That's great. I myself has been reducing the use of plastic bags at supermarkets. Whenever the cashier loads the items that I bought into many different bags, separated according to types of items (food and laundry detergent, for instance, are never put in the same bag), I would try to stuff as many items that I can into as minimum number of plastic bags. I'd say the usual is about 20% of the bags issued are reduced.
During my days in the UK (1996-1998), Kwik Save and Aldi sells the bags at 2 pence each. That minimal 'penalty' is enough to deter people from using bags. However, paper boards and cartons were available to be reused in-store. An example of this can be seen in the film Employee of The Month.
Personally, for dry items, I don't need plastic bags. However, I still need plastic bags for fish especially and other wet items. Albeit, plastic bags are a little bit porous and thus need at least two linings in order to be totally drip-free. At home, I'm using plastic garbage bag for the kitchen refuse as they are almost always wet. That being said, I use only bio-degradable garbage bags.
Tesco and Jusco use oxo-biodegradable bags with TDPA additives from EPI. I don't know, but perhaps it costs more than the normal bags (like in Giant). The oxo-biodegradable garbage bags are comparatively more expensive than the normal ones, definintely. Well, with the 'no plastic bags' on Saturdays, they would save at least some $ for sure. And, at the same time gain $ by selling the 'eco friendly reusable bags' to customers. Of course, for this reason alone supermarkets would be giving thumbs up for the government's push. What more with the 'green' image. However, with the introduction of reusable shopping bags, my house is now finding it a bit scarce of the 'singlet' plastic bags. For a week's dry groceries, I need at least 3 of those reusable bags. And, would have no clean plastic bags to be used for wrapping my clothes and packed meals I bring to the office whenever I ride the bicycle to work.
My thoughts:
1. Plastic bags should be at 5 sen a piece, and they shall be of the oxo-biodegradable type. I still need them for wet items. 5 sen is still quite expensive, but that's the smallest change that we can pay. Or, it can be priced cheaper, at 3 pieces for 10 sen for example.
2. The expensive 'reusable bags' need to be scrutinised in terms of their eco-friendliness (how they are manufactured, will they biodegrade, can they be recycled, durability, etc.).
3. Supermarkets need to have the paperboard cartons made available for customers to use, in store.
4. Why only on Saturdays? Make it every day. People would just avoid shopping on Saturdays and hurt supermarkets that way.
Other thoughts:
True enough, people would generally think twice to bring their Tesco reusable bags to shop at Giant. At least I do.
image taken from the star

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