The supermarket plastic bag is one of the scourges of our time – they can be seen everywhere (literally) but are a strangely British issue. On the continent they were consigned to the pay to use corner of the checkout many years ago – consequently their use has fallen to almost zero over the channel.
Supermarkets in Wales have reported reductions of up to 96% in the use of single-use plastic bags following the introduction of the 5p charge last October. The charge, which was introduced to cut waste, has also seen a big rise in the number of people using their own bags in shops and a surge in support for the scheme. The scheme covers all single-use bags, including paper ones.
Figures compiled by the British Retail Consortium show bag use at 13 retailers (including Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s) saw reductions of 70-96% for food retail, and 68-75% for fashion.
The number of Welsh people always taking their own bags to the supermarket rose from 42% before the charge to 64% after, according to a survey of 1,000 people by the Welsh government. The survey also showed support for the charge had risen since its introduction, with the number “strongly supporting” it rising from 35% before to 49% after.
Ireland introduced a plastic bag tax in 2002, Northern Ireland is set to bring in a 5p charge in 2013 and last month Scotland opened a consultation on a proposed minimum charge of 5p which, if adopted, would leave England as the only country in the UK without one.
Last week, new figures showed Welsh households recycle almost half their waste – putting the country well ahead of England, where the average recycling rate is around 40%.
Isn’t it time that we adopted this approach as well? Or are we just interested in longer opening hours?
The self checkout till has become a familiar part of our lives – the idea is that if you only have a few items to pay for it is quicker than going to a ‘normal till’. In reality it saves the supermarket or store paying for a member of staff to man the till, I can understand the theory, and if it keeps prices down that is fine.
What I have issue with however is the massive variation in the quality of these machines….
Today I have been to Boots in the Victoria Centre, their tills are quick to scan, and generally work faultlessly – a totally pain-free experience and probably quicker than using a ‘manned’ till.
Sainsbury’s on Castle Marina is a similar experience, their tills are not totally fool-proof, sometimes there is an issue with the ‘is it in the bag’ routine. But generally it works fairly quickly.
So why have Morrison’s and Asda both got such appallingly poor systems? It would seem that wherever you go into one of their stores the self scan system is painfully slow, doesn’t recognise items going into the bag and nine times out of ten requires staff input to sort out an issue – and of course the staff member has at least 6 machines to manage so is always sorting out someone elses problem and not yours!
Talking to the staff in the stores (you tend to end up having a chat while they try to resolve the third or fourth error on your till) it is apparent that they hate them – being put on them as a supervisor is akin to the naughty step it would seem!
So this is a simple request to both firms – either sort out your systems or put more staff on the tills!
I have blogged previously about the fight currently going in my home town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire over the siting of a supermarket, the “combatants” being Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. I am in the “support the best of a bad case” camp – in an ideal world the town doesn’t need a supermarket – but the Waitrose one makes most sense to me, and would in my view have least effect on the town – partly due to its location and partly due to the arguably better ethics of the operator.
So I am appalled to see in the press over the last few days that English Heritage have in effect just come out in support of the Sainsbury’s deal! Obviously they haven’t said it in so many words – but they have made the following statement about the siting of the Waitrose unit;
“The role of the site as a positive contributor to the setting of the town will be lost as the area will effectively become part of the town rather than part of its landscape, resulting in an undesirable extension of its historic and tightly knit development pattern beyond the river boundary. “In this respect the proposals will cause substantial harm to the character and appearance of the conservation area, the immediate settings of Avon Mills and St John’s Bridge, and in harming the strategic setting of the town as a whole, to that of the Abbey. “
Now I lived in Malmesbury from the age of 8 and can honestly say that the site has no view of the Abbey, yes it adds to the towns area, but within the relief road (or ring road if you prefer). Surely that is preferable to adding a huge development on the far edge of the town outside the road system? Also the site is behind Avon Mills, so has no view of the Abbey or higher town, or can be seen from the town itself.
I understand why English Heritage are saying this – but in my opinion they are wrong!
I strongly believe that Sainsbury’s would kill the town centre, I do not believe their ‘spin’ about complementing the town. They are in business to make money, not help in a philanthropical way to develop a town centre and cherish it!
Come on Malmesbury, wake up and realise what is about to happen! For the Nimby’s there perhaps the realisation that it will make the town less attractive and therefore affect house prices downwards might help you make a decision? What ever happens the town is going to change for ever, but let’s try to make it as minimal and least damaging as we can?
Over the weekend on the way back from a very pleasant weekend camping in Derbyshire I stopped off at Sainsbury’s petrol station at the Meteor Centre in Derby. This is not normally an event that would be of note, but on this occasion I saw something that can only be described as mindless idiocy!
We all know that petrol is rather dangerous – it has a propensity to explode rather easily (it wouldn’t be very good at its job if it didn’t). Because of this petrol forecourts tend to be fairly well-managed locations to prevent the possibility of sparks and explosions. We are all used to the idea that we shouldn’t use mobile phones or smoke while filling up……
However, the scenario that had developed in Derby was remarkable;
A large 4×4 pickup (it looked like a US import) had been refueled by its owner – sadly it was a diesel and he had filled it up at the petrol pump. This is not easily done, but it happens. Normally this then requires the vehicle to be taken to a garage for the tank to be drained and the system re-primed with diesel – unless of course you are a moron.
Apparently our ‘brave’ driver decided that he would syphon out his tank into 5 gallon plastic bottles himself – and on the forecourt! This on the hottest day of the year, surrounded by cars filling up with fuel. I mentioned to the ladies in the kiosk that I thought this was perhaps ‘not such a good idea’ and they told me they had expressed the same sentiments to the driver and asked him to stop. He had told them ‘where to get off’ and just carried on.
I have a couple of thoughts here;
Obviously the driver was a mindless moron (that goes without saying), and should have been arrested, but why didn’t the manager of the forecourt either phone the police or close the forecourt? It appears that Sainsbury’s management of their petrol stations is sadly lacking. Why have they no guidance in place for their staff in this type of scenario – or is it so important to make money that the public safety comes second?
Not sure the licensing authorities would see it that way?
The supermarkets are always offering us special offers – they might be multi buys or just reduced prices (sadly the multi buy is more common). Saving money in the current economic climate is a good thing, and as long as we don’t buy things just because they are a bargain (which is of course what the supermarkets want) we end up saving money.
My issue however is with the deals that save us money but require the purchase of more items than we really want to achieve the saving. As an example at my local COOP they sell fresh rolls and similar ‘bake up’ products – their crusty rolls and French bread are excellent. But, due to their special deal it actually saves me money to buy 3 rolls rather than the 2 I actually want – so one gets binned!
Is this the act of a socially responsible supermarket? (and they are not alone in this – others are just as bad).
We are all guilty of using too many bags from the supermarkets when we do our shopping. Some reduction has been managed in England by the bags for life system – but it is only a drop in the ocean. However in Wales a charge on bags was levied last year and the first results of its effect are in – and its good news!
Supermarkets in Wales are reporting a reduction in the use of ‘single use bags’ of up to 90%.
It is six months since a minimum 5p charge per bag was introduced, Sainsbury’s saw a 90% fall, the Co-op reported 86% and Morrison’s 60%.
In 2009, shoppers in Wales took home an estimated 350m carrier bags from the major supermarkets. The new figures suggest hundreds of millions fewer single use carrier bags could be handed out this year in supermarkets alone.
Supermarkets report that the introduction of the 5p charge has gone smoothly across all stores and did not result in the ‘anarchy’ that was predicted by some. This was probably due to strong publicity in the months prior to the change, but with the holiday season approaching and lots of English visiting is it not a good opportunity to educate us English as well?
Tesco in England reports that since 2006 it has reduced bag use by over 50% through clubcard loyalty incentives for customers bringing their own carriers – not a bad result. But in Wales this has risen to over 90% with the levy. This just goes to show that sometimes a big stick is required to get people to act!
So how about it? Time to act?
We have a very good local store in my part of West Bridgford, I am not going to name it, but it is part of a large chain famous for its local stores. There has been a major refurb of the store in recent months and it now offers a very pleasant environment to shop in.
As part of the refurbishment the fridge units have been replaced to the now very popular tall open fronted designs – great from the point of view of selling produce it would appear. But not good from another point – more on which below.
the fridge units occupy the entire rear wall of the shop and they have a return leg up one side, so they form a significant percentage of the walls of the shop. I am a regular visitor to the shop as it is great for those last minute items that you forget from the weekly shop. However, this weekend is the first vaugly warm weather since the refurbishment. On walking to the rear of the store I was amazed to find the air conditioning units in the ceiling pumping out hot air (it was warm outside). I assumed this must be a mistake and mentioned it to the manager.
His reply? “No I have to have it on, otherwise the fridges make it so cold down here that the shoppers complain”.
So here we have a totally refurbished shop from a chain that prides itself on being greener than most supermarkets and cooperating with the locals – but they have not considered the impact of the design of the shop on the green aspects. I hate to think how much electricity the airconditioner is using to heat the cooled corner of the shop.
A definite own goal – surely the shopfitters should be aware of these issues when they design stores?