The latest statistics show the number of single-use plastic carrier bags used by customers has fallen by 80% since the since the government introduced a bag charge last October, according to BusinessWaste.co.uk.
The law, which requires large shops in England to charge 5p for each single-use plastic carrier bag, has resulted in some customers going to extreme methods to avoid being parted with their cash, the national waste and recycling company claims.
BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall said: “Two things became clear on day one of the scheme. First, there’s no way on earth you’ll part people with 5p for a plastic bag; and second, these same people will go to any length to find alternatives.”
BusinessWaste.co.uk asked hundreds of shoppers around the country what they had used when caught short of a bag in a supermarket. Here are 10 of the more unusual answers:
- Builder’s bucket (“I’m a builder; I’ve got loads of buckets. What a money-saver”)
- Car blanket tied up at all four corners (“I do it all the time now; the till operators think it’s very clever”)
- Cycle helmet (“Which means I have to push the bike home; ‘swings and roundabouts’, as they say”)
- Dog waste bag (“I’ve always got a few in my pocket, and they hold more than you expect. Better still, they’re free from the council offices!”)
- Pair of trousers tied up at the ankles (“They were in the back of the car, they saved me at least 20p on bags, and hardly anybody laughed at me, so that’s a plus”)
- Coat with loads of pockets (“I leave the supermarket looking like a very successful shoplifter, so getting past the security guard is always a challenge”)
- Baby’s pram (“An old-fashioned one with all the springs and such. All my children are grown up, mind you”)
- Flowerpot (“One of those huge decorative ones from the homeware aisle. It was just the right size”)
- In the arms of my children (“I’ve got four, and they’ve got two good arms each. They’re not keen on the frozen stuff”)
- Suitcase (“Suitcases are completely under-rated as a shopping bag alternative. Think about it – they’re only used once a year when you go on holiday, so why let them go to waste? Top tip: Make sure it’s one with wheels”)
A lot of people confessed that they “borrow” the supermarket’s wire basket or trolley to get their goods home, but that’s not something BusinessWaste.co.uk encourages.
“Number one, it’s theft,” said Mark, “and if there is one downside to the plastic bag charge, it’s the number of abandoned shopping trolleys in the streets these days. It’s gone through the roof.”
However, the human ingenuity that has gone into the subject of avoiding a 5p charge bodes well for the future of the British nation, BusinessWaste.co.uk said.
“If we have the finest minds of our generation working on this complex situation, heaven knows what we can achieve if we turn this collective power to bear on our nation’s biggest problems,” Mark said. “As a country, we’d be unbeatable.”
As for giving single-use plastic carrier bags a name, Mark suggested (with his tongue was firmly planted in his cheek): “Perhaps they should print ‘Bag of Shame’ on the side of the bags. After all, that’ll drive the numbers down even further.”
BusinessWaste.co.uk manages waste and recycling collections for companies in and around major towns. The company is committed to reducing landfill, and works to help companies increase their recycling targets. It also campaigns for tighter laws to discourage littering and encourage greater recycling.