Sunday, 4 October 2015

Selling a disincentive -It's in the bag 5p please - #Selling Bags to reduce their usage

This Monday is a rather special day for Selling in the English high street.

Buying and Selling tends to take place in a free-ish market environment. But today through an enforced selling price by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs , Selling is trying to be used to change commercial behaviour.

According to Keep Britain Tidy, 11.4% of places surveyed in England showed evidence of littered single-use plastic bags.

In a world concerned about plastic packaging waste , Business is being challenged to redesign, produce and sell its products. This requires us to re-think how we use and consume products, and re-define what is possible through re-use and recycling.

This new law is trying to change the behaviour of the buyer by stopping the seller offering free carrier bags.

The Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015 comes into force today 5th October.

The order requires sellers who employ more than 250 people to charge 5p for a "single use carrier bag" which is less than 70 microns (0.07mm) thick.

Though there are plenty of exceptions to the rule, such as for medicines, raw meat and razor blades,we're  having to pay for bags and it will be a major change for most English shoppers.

Offering free plastic bags has been a low-cost way to encourage custom for some years.

Former bag behaviour 'back in the day'

Before the era of the free plastic bag, customers brought their own shopping bags. There might be paper bags provided for some items, but people didn't expect to be furnished with bags as a matter of course.

There is a reference to a carrier bag in a 1907 catalogue from the department store " Army and Navy" .

 "The 'Sensible' carrier bag with strings is the only paper bag with a firm bottom, and capable of carrying wet fruit, pastry etc, without bursting the bag."
This Paper bag dates back to the 1960s
 Fruiterer and Greengrocer Hone's was founded in 1911

Current plastic bag for Hone's Customers 

Celloplast patented a "bag with handle of weldable plastic material" in the US in 1965.

 By the mid-1970s JC Penney and other American department stores, were using plastic bags for purchases, and the first polyethylene bags appeared in supermarkets across the country soon after.

By the 1980s the bags had reached British supermarkets and their use grew in use quickly. Marks and Spencer had a plastic carrier for clothes by 1973.

The free plastic bag rapidly became contentious. 

British supermarket shoppers used 8.5 billion free plastic bags in 2014, according to *Wrap, a recycling charity - though this was down from 2006, when figures were first collated, when more than 12 billion were used.

In England the average person goes through nearly 12 thin-gauge bags (made of plastic or paper) per month, while in Wales, where there has been a 5p charge per plastic bag since 2011, shoppers use just two bags per person per month. 

Before the introduction of the charge, they used 10. 

 Shoppers in Northern Island have seen a similar drop-off in bag use since they introduced a charge in April 2013, from nearly nine to fewer than two thin gauge bags used per person per month.

The reason is explained by some academics that when there is an economic disincentive involved, consumers tend not to use a product.

'It ain't necessarily so'

The introduction of the charge represents a change in approach towards shoppers, led by the government. Previously, the option to buy Bags for Life (at a small cost) was supposed to encourage virtue from the general public.

But  figures from *Wrap suggest that - with 439 million of these tougher bags issued in 2014 alone - they are still not "for Life".

So our supermarkets have been preparing for  today in different ways. Tesco has been offering shoppers free Bags for Life in the run-up to the changeover to try and ease the transition.

From the highest fashion boutique to the most humble pound shop, stores will have to charge customers expecting to carry home their purchases in plastic bags thinner than 70 microns thick with handles.

With 80% of clothes shoppers saying they use brand new carrier bags when buying items, and similarly high proportions at other shops, it will be a sea change for both sales staff and shoppers alike.

Pound shops could surely have a problem. They will have to ensure they have enough change for customers who now need to spend £5.05, rather than a flat £5, for a five-item shop with a bag that previously would have been free.

A survey conducted  by Wrap last year, 40% of respondents said that the charge would encourage them to use Bags for Life more often –

though 39% said that "it would make no difference" to their shopping behaviour.

 (This figure did include those who have already shunned plastic bags.)

 According to Professor Poortinga, a professor of environmental psychology at Cardiff University, whenever charges have been introduced, bag usage has dropped between 50 and 90%.

But the charge may be addressing the wrong issue, believes Sukhi Poonia of PAFA, the Packaging and Films Association. 

"We as an industry have put our hands up and said it's an issue - plastic bags are getting chucked into the sea. But our stance is that we're never going to get better behaviour until there's tougher enforcement on littering."

Related Links

Keep Britain Tidy

No comments:

Post a Comment