The Carrier Bag Challenge

I’ve finished my Christmas shopping! I’m not boasting, honestly. I don’t have many gifts to buy, and as this weekend is my last chance to see my family before Christmas I had to be organised. I’m just glad that it’s done. So I thought I’d set you all a little challenge. It is estimated that the average life of a single giveaway carrier bag (or ‘tote’ – I love that word!) is only 3 minutes before being discarded. All those resources used up for three minutes of something we didn’t really need in the first place! Here in Wales a new law came into effect October 1st 2011 which means that if you want a carrier bag (plastic or paper) anywhere in Wales, at any shop/take-away etc you have to pay 5p for it. The proceeds are then donated to charity. I for one have welcomed this new law with open arms, although I stopped using plastic bags a long time ago. Firstly, it was hugely entertaining watching everybody think up ways to carry their shopping without using a bag on 1st October. I saw one man stagger out of Tesco to his car with a tower of groceries in his hands that reached to about two foot above him. Secondly, it’s made the nation think about how they use plastic. There was a lot of confusion from the locals at first, with comments such as ‘They even charged me in McDonalds’ and ‘But I bought lots of clothes so I needed a bag’ falling on deaf ears. However, a law is a law and most people have got used to it now. My particular favourite was a lady in Sainsburys who said ‘Well, if they’re going to charge me they can keep their bags’. I think that was the idea.
I was somewhat surprised at the uproar to the new law. I’m only 32, but I can remember another time when it was normal to charge for bags. It was considered an ingenious marketing ploy when Kwik Save announced that they would no longer be charging for bags. They didn’t think their customers should have to pay for them, unfortunately not realising at the time what they were starting and the effect it would have on the environment.
If you’re already using reusable shopping bags then good on you. If not, then why not take up the carrier bag challenge this Christmas and see if you can complete all your shopping just using reusables. After all, the law will come into effect in other countries at some point. And if you’re coming to Wales to shop, you’ll definitely need your own bags because carrier bags are harder to find here than a Welshman who doesn’t like rugby.


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