Thursday, August 23, 2018

More bag changes

Things are changing quickly for the provision of plastic bags at supermarkets, with many grocery stores already ending free single-use plastic bags. But it turns our that ending those bags isn’t the only change, as an email I received this week explains. I’m intrigued by this change.

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about ordering groceries online for the first time in many years. I was surprised by the reusable bags my order was packed in, but I was surprised again a few days ago when I received this email from my delivery store (graphic above is from that email; I think it's cute):
We've got some good news! From Monday 3 September, single-use plastic carrier bags will be gone from checkouts and online shopping at Countdown Pukekohe South.

Shopping in-store? Remember to bring your own bag, box, basket, bucket or whatever from home. But if you forget don't worry-there'll be plenty of reusable bag options available in-store. It's all good.

Shopping online? Your online order will now be packed into paper bags. They're recyclable, can break down easily in marine environments and don't place any onus on the customer to clean and return a reusable bag, which is obviously difficult in an online shopping service.

It's one small step for Countdown Pukekohe South, and a large step toward our commitment to phasing out single-use plastic carrier bags at all Countdown supermarkets by the end of 2018! Together, we can do some good for our environment, so bring your bags and we'll see you soon.
There are several things to say about this, beginning with the fact that this is, I’m sure, a boilerplate email sent to customers of particular stores. What that means is that this is a common-enough thing now that they need a boilerplate email, and I’m really glad about that.

Second, Countdown—and, I’m sure, its competitors—are eliminating single use plastic bags well before the government will officially ban them. That’s awesome!

But the thing that stuck out for me was the part about online shopping: Paper bags?! I still remember when paper was all there was, then when store staff would ask, “paper or plastic?”, and then when plastic was the only choice. I’m well aware that making paper can cause its own problems, but the end of life part is FAR superior, and has far less impact on the environment, than any plastic bag.

But I also noted the part that said that paper bags “don't place any onus on the customer to clean and return a reusable bag, which is obviously difficult in an online shopping service.” That’s inarguably true, but I was also well aware that many folks in America would likely be a bit squeamish about the old system, presuming the bags were somehow “contaminated” by whoever used the bags last. I wasn’t, and it also never occurred to me that anyone would need to “clean… a reusable bag” because I can’t imagine getting one dirty. Still, the move to paper fixes all that.

Ironically, I’ve been thinking about the need for paper replacements for plastic bags at home. We use plastic bags (supposedly “compostable”) in our kitchen rubbish bin, and I know there were (too large) heavy duty paper rubbish bags available. I don’t know if they’re still sold, but if they are, they’re too big for our bin, which would be a waste.

I’ve also been thinking about cleaning out the cat box. Not to put too fine a point on it, some of what I clean out is rather moist, so if I use paper I’ll need to double bag (old skool again…). But the only ones I’ve ever seen at the grocery store were for lunches, and a bit small.

The larger point here is that if we’re gong to reduce our use of plastic bags outside of stores, we need to have replacement options. Sure, there are some for, say, produce bags in a grocery store (as I talked about in a post earlier this month), but the reality is that people will want bags to line their rubbish bins. I will, too, and so far I haven’t seen good options. Which means that will probably become a blog topic in the future.

So, I’m glad to see the moves by the grocery store I use, but we still have a long way to go to reduce our use of plastic bags beyond at stores. I’m confident we can get there, but we’re not there yet.


rogerogreen said...

I just came back from the store with about 10 items. I rook my cart, which has much more room than I needed. But what I realized is that I didn't need a bag at all, not even a reusable one. And this made me astonishingly happy.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Yeah, a lot of times I'm only getting an item or two, so a bag isn't necessary at all. But for food store items, we don't have carts of any kind, really, and especially not when the only practical way to get to/from the shop is by car.