Sunday, 10 February 2008

No Bags Please

Yesterday I had a great shopping day from a Zero Waste perspective. I bought a few things in town and managed to return home with no plastic bags, not even the little tiddly one that was almost thrust upon me!

The first stop was very early in the day to buy an emergency present for a birthday party. I found two fabulous dinosaurs in the Early Learning Centre. They weren't boxed, so no useless packaging to discard. After politely refusing the carrier bag, the next stop was Clinton Cards to find a gift bag, where I declined another offer of an even larger carrier bag. After all, we were en route to the birthday party (which actually reveals how disorganised I was - too busy with the worms I think).

After picking up some craft paper and a bunch of bananas (and then balancing them carefully through the market), I spotted a stall that was selling daffodils without the usual plastic wrapping that is used to protect flowers.

As I paid for the daffodils, I asked the stall-holder for permission to take a photo and whilst doing so he kindly dropped my bananas into a small carrier bag.

I teetered over rebuking his kind gesture, as I hate saying no to people and I never like to offend anyone. However I stuck to my guns and politely gave it back. He probably thought I was a mad old toad...but eh... so do plenty of others.

However, I am certainly not unusual in rejecting carrier bags. There is now greater awareness about their effect on landfill and the ecology and an increasing number of people are now using reusable shopping bags.

There are several shops in Bury St Edmunds where shopkeepers make the effort to ask if a plastic bag is needed and top marks go to shops such as Boots, WHSmith, Rymans, The Body Shop and Woolworths who always pose the question. There seems to be less proactive measures taken by the independent shops, with the exception of a few, Butterworth's being one of them.

It would be great to see Bury St Edmunds follow in the footsteps of Modbury, which is the UK's first Plastic Bag Free town. This trend has since seen Overton, Hebden Bridge and Tisbury all signing up to be free of carrier bags. According to this link on the Modbury site, it looks as though the local towns of Ipswich and Newmarket are also in the planning stages, which is encouraging news, so maybe things will happen in Bury St Edmunds after all.



Picklesmum said...

I used to work in Boots 10 years ago and always asked 'Do you need a bag for that?', I was so ahead of the times!

Cheryl said...

Hey I say thumbs up to you, go girl. I am a really keen on recycling but 0 is a tough one. I get all my fruit and veg from a box sheme....all in paper bags which go back to the farm for reuse. I have five composters for kitchen waste, garden shredding etc. Papers, plastic bottles, cansetc go to the local recycling bank. I use my own hessian bags for shopping but packaging is a huge problem....I wish company's would start to take this issue seriously.
Interesting blog, will come again.

grumpyoldwoman said...

When I was in southern Ireland last year I commented on how lovely it was to be handed my purchases in a paper carrier - they told me that they dont use plastic bags and I was so ashamed of the one that I was holding that I binned it and went 'native'.

AMCSviatko said...

Have you heard of Morsbags: "sociable guerilla bagging"?

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Picklesmum - you were definitely ahead of your times. Last time I went into Boots for some moisturiser, the lady asked me if I needed a bag and I told her I didn't as long as I could leave the packaging behind ;-D
She was very compliant.

Hi Cheryl - thanks for popping by and for the support. It sounds like you've got things pretty much sorted. I'd love to have the space for more composting bins, but with our small garden we are managing with the old plastic one and the new wormery (which I love). There are a few companies which are now making more of an effort but there needs to be wider effort in place. What I object to is also paying twice (once for the packaging and then to the council for having to manage it...oooh, I'm beginning to feel all militant now...not like me at all). See you soon. ;-D

Hi Grumps - that sounds idyllic. I love paper bags. When my sister came to visit from Switzerland recently, she complained that our local bakery gave her bread in a plastic bag. In Switzerland, they use paper ones which keeps the crust nice and crusty and not soft.

Hi Shopping Sherpa - thanks for popping by and for the link. I'll go and check it out.

Cybèle said...

In Holland, where I'm from originally, they always ask if you need a bag. If you go to the supermarket, there are no bags available for free and they won't ask you if you want one - if you need one, you can buy a sturdy one (like the Bags for life over here) or they have a big area where they leave the cardboard boxes from their produce which you can have for free (the boxes, not the produce ;-) I'm desperately trying not to get any plastic bags on the market, but it isn't always easy!
Have you heard of morsbags?

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Cybele - thanks for visiting and for helping me with Freecycle today, That's such interesting news about Holland. What always amazes me is the cultural differences when it comes to issues such as this. I know what you mean about the market, however, I have found that if you pass the stallholders a shopping bag, they will use that instead. Thanks for the Morsbags link. That's the second mention over the last couple of days, so I'll go and have a good look.

AMCSviatko said...

Have you heard about the German Packaging Ordinance?

"The German packaging ordinance is an example of legislated extended producer responsibility (also known as product take-back). Consumers can leave packaging with retailers, and packagers are required to pay for their recycling and disposal"

I think t's a briliiant idea - if you chose to manufacture your moisturiser with three layers of plastic packaging it's up to you to deal with it! :-)

Almost Mrs Average said...

Thanks to The Shopping Sherpa for the news on Germany. These guys always seem to lead the way and it's great news that they do. For anyone interested in reading more, here's a link to Germany's Federal Waste Management site (I've also included the link in the side bar on the right)

Anonymous said...

I bought some reasonably posh clothes from Phase Eight last week. The assistant kindly folded them and wrapped them in tissue paper (Not so bad as I can use this for wrapping paper). She didn't look pleased though when I politely said that I didn't need a bag, but tucked them into my big re-usable Waitrose bag. I have being saying "no" to plastic bags for 20 years now - it's great to see shops gradually getting the message.

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi anonymous - I love that story. I often do that in M&S, but strangely since starting The Rubbish Diet, I've not bought any new clothes. However, next time I do, I am suitably encouraged. Thank you. ;-D

Karin said...

I've definitely noticed I'm being asked more often if I want a plastic bag, even in Sainsbury's, since our town's campaign against plastic bags began. One of the Sainsbury's checkout assistants came to a recent meeting, so perhaps she's been spreading the word.

The campaign website is here Reasons for giving up plastic bags are given amongst other info.

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