Carrier Bag Charge Backlash

 Posted by at 10:48 on 24 October 2015
Oct 242015
 

Following on from yesterday’s post, I thought I’d share some of what I turned up online about the reaction to the carrier bag fee, because it is a mix of amusing and gobsmacking.

The Telegraph put together an amusing list of tweets:

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And from Eight incidents that prove the English public have lost their minds over the carrier bag charge, we have these gems:

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A man got banned from Asda for fighting over the carrier bag charge

Yes, really. The Sun reports that Asda customer Delroy Hilton felt like he was “treated like a dog” by staff who allegedly tried to force him to pay for his plastic carrier bags.

He claimed that while trying to carry his shopping to his car in a basket from the shop, a worker emptied his goods onto the floor.

He paid at a self-service checkout at the store in Sheldon, Birmingham, but did not want to pay for a bag.

After the incident, he was asked to leave, and the next day was told that he was banned for using foul language and being abusive towards staff.

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By Mercury Press

By Mercury Press

The supermarket Tesco had such trouble at one shop with people stealing its “bags for life” that they actually security tagged them. (source)

(Many retailers have these bags for life: they’re usually about 10 pence, and you use it til it wears out, and then return it and they’ll replace it with a new one. They’re plastic, though, so you can’t toss em in the washing machine.)

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Another Tesco location “said a third of their baskets had been stolen in just a week,” so they started security tagging them, too. (source)

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This post makes it look like I’m a Telegraph reader, but in truth I don’t really read any of the national newspapers. I just end up clicking from one story to another to another, and today somehow I started on that site. It’s the local news I keep up with – hence Glossop Events.

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That disclaimer aside, I’ll close with a little food for thought, from an OpEd by Jemima Lewis:

But should consumers alone be punished? It was the supermarkets that got us hooked on plastic bags in the first place. Not so long ago, all bags were “bags for life”. My grandfather lugged the same straw basket to and from the local Safeway every day for 20 years; and when that fell apart he bought another one, just the same.

He knew the capacity of his basket by heart, the way a cat knows its fences. If he couldn’t fit it into the basket, he didn’t buy it. This made him – his entire frugal generation, in fact – irksome to supermarkets. If these stores were to persuade customers to buy impulsively, to succumb to the lure of the two-for-one, they needed to make it easier for them to carry the extra booty home.

Giving away free, single-use plastic bags was central to the success of the supermarkets. It helped train a generation of shoppers in bad habits, and ushered in a new era of convenience, greed and waste.

Supermarket profits have come at a heavy cost to the planet. Isn’t it only fair that they’re the ones who should pay the price?

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The New Normal

 Posted by at 10:04 on 23 October 2015
Oct 232015
 

I’m suddenly normal. It’s a very strange feeling.

FoxTrot by Bill Amend

FoxTrot by Bill Amend

To be sure, I’m only normal in one teeny, tiny respect, but you see, I didn’t change anything to achieve this. I didn’t alter myself or my habits; I didn’t move elsewhere; I didn’t suddenly gain a new circle of friends and acquaintances. And yet, literally overnight, one aspect of my life has gone from me being the weirdo to suddenly me being normal and completely accepted.

On Monday the 5th of October, England caught up with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and instituted a £0.05 charge (today, that’s $0.077) for each single-use carrier bag issued in a shop – well, about half of them. There are a raft of exceptions: small shops don’t have to charge (but might choose to); bags only containing certain items, such as unwrapped food, raw meat and fish where there is a food safety risk, prescription medicines, uncovered blades, seeds, bulbs and flowers, or live fish don’t need to be charged for; and so on. The official guidance is here.

The government did this in the name of the environment – it wants to see less litter, it wants less bags made, it wants to spend less cleaning up the litter, etc. The charge, mind you, is NOT going towards the litter cleanup cost, which is my quibble: in true English style, it’s mostly supposed to be donated to charity – whatever charity that particular retailer chooses. The £0.05 includes our 20% sales tax (vat), so 4.17 pence is available for the retailer, and 0.83 pence goes to the government. The retailers “are allowed to deduct only ‘reasonable costs’ from the 5p fee. These include the cost of ‘changing till systems’ and ‘training staff’, but not the money used to purchase stock.”1

Photo by DttSP

Photo by DttSP

I’ve long hated the accumulation of carrier bags; I find fabric bags much nicer (less noisy, for a start, and able to be washed in the washing machine). They make these great ones that can be folded down very small, and I’ve kept at least one of these in my purse (handbag) for years. Sometimes nothing but plastic will do – especially to get the bread home dry when it’s raining – so having a certain number has always been useful. But you end up with masses if you’re not careful. Even having my own bags, even trying to use them, I’ve had shop assistants insist on thrusting bags at me whether I wanted them or not so often, that I’ve had to purge periodically. Thankfully, I found great outlets for my bags – the torn up ones went to Ocado, one of the supermarkets I use, which I was reasonably sure would actually recycle them. The usable ones would go to my friendly local farmer who delivers weekly to me, or to the charity shop in town that’s always so grateful for them. But yes, thrusting a bag at the customer was so habitual that I couldn’t stop many shop assistants, and I ended up with quite a mass of these to sort about once a month.

The time Chris and I went to Stalybridge Handmade Market, which was a lovely market of individual artisans who’d made the stuff they were selling (our kind of market), I confounded them all when I told them I didn’t need a bag. They were all so intent on giving me their bags – paper bags, these, which are even less useful to me – and all I could see was waste. All I could see was that them having spent money to buy these, for me to turn around and put them in my recycle when I got home, not even having needed them in the meantime, since we’d brought bags. But they were so crushed, it was like stepping on a puppy! I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.

When I could forestall them, I often had the sense that they were humoring me. “Oh look at her, fiddling with her bag. Guess we’ll put up with it this time.”

But the English are a thrifty lot, and £0.05 per bag seems too steep most of the time, so overnight, bringing your own bag suddenly became okay. I was no longer getting a feeling of being humored, anywhere. Dealing with my bags (fabric bags are floppy, that’s the downside, but after that report I read about the germs in reused bags, I refuse to use non-washed bags) was suddenly just part of the transaction.

I suddenly became normal!

It’s very weird. It’s nice to suddenly not have this slight power struggle going on, or the extra chore of sorting out my plastic bags once a month. I’d rather just pay a bit for the odd plastic bags I do want – that’s a far more cost effective use of my time, really. So yes, nice, to be sure – but crikey, it’s weird. So long as I don’t turn too much normal, I suppose.

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