While WRAP reports that 8 billion single-use thin-gauge plastics carrier bags were used by UK supermarket customers in 2011, up 5.4% on the previous year, there is a movement to tempt these consumers to revert to “more environmentally friendly” biodegradable and recyclable cartonboard boxes for their shopping.
Data on carrier bags issued by supermarkets has been gathered and analysed by WRAP at the request of UK governments on an annual basis since 2006. These latest figures revealed a 22% fall in Wales, a 7.5% rise in England, an 8.1% rise in Northern Ireland and no significant change in Scotland.
But plastics shopping bags could be “a thing of the past”, according to a press release from the Wales-based Peitr Group, which has partnered DS Smith to produce a flat-packed re-useable supermarket ‘Trolley Box’ printed with the retailer’s branding.
The corrugated Trolley Box, made from 100% recycled materials, has been designed to fit perfectly into supermarket shopping trolleys and fold flat for storage when not in use.
The results of a report funded by WRAP Wales found that one biodegradable Trolley Box could, in its lifespan, replace 166 plastics bags, 62 bags for life and, if 10,000 shoppers used it for their weekly shop for one year, it would save the equivalent of 2.5 million plastics bags.
Unlike the rigid plastics boxes introduced by some supermarkets a few years back, which failed for many reasons to gel with consumers, John Chichester of Peitr claims his boxes are a more viable solution – not so heavy when full, stable in the car, easy to carry with two hands, and easy to store and eventually dispose of (with the household recycling).
However, there will still be many who will prefer the convenience of numerous plastics carrier bags to the restrictions of a rigid container.
Plastics bags, for example, can be scrunched up smaller than any piece of folding board and reused for many things, many times and they are not a problem to recycle or dispose of sensibly. They can also be carried in one hand, leaving the other free to hold a child’s hand, or a stair rail. For the elderly, they are much easier to handle, as several bags can be part-filled to distribute the weight, while taking up no more space in the car.
The Trolley Box will, of course, never totally replace plastics bags but it does offer a good viable and sustainable alternative, which will appeal to many.
Chichester admits that in reality he is anticipating, and hoping for, a market penetration of around 10%.