Tesco slashes bag use by 40 per cent

Filed in Waste News by on August 15, 2008 16 Comments
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plastic carrier bags
Good news from Tesco as they slash their carrier bag use by 40%. They claim this has been done by offering customers the incentive of having points put on their loyalty card every time they reuse their own bags.

The original article was published on Business Green yesterday and was via Big Green Switch:

The unofficial race between the UK’s leading supermarkets to see who can save the most plastic bags stepped up a gear yesterday after Tesco claimed it has reduced the number of single use carrier bags distributed over the last two years by two billion.

The company said that since the launch in August 2006 of its scheme for offering customers points on their Tesco reward cards if they use their own bags monthly bag use has fallen by 40 per cent to 200m bags.

Lucy Neville-Rolfe, corporate and legal affairs director at Tesco, said that the rate at which customers were turning away from plastic bags was accelerating. “It took more than 14 months to save the first billion bags but the second billion was achieved in less than nine months, showing that the trend is rapidly gaining support,” she said.

Tesco maintained that the figures were also evidence that its approach of incentivising people to reduce plastic bag use was working. In a thinly, veiled swipe at government plans for a possible tax on single use carrier bags, Neville-Rolfe said that the company had helped customers cut bag use by 40 per cent “without a bag tax adding to the cost of their weekly shop”.

“Our customers have shown us how keen they are to break this environmentally-damaging habit of a lifetime,” she said. “The “carrot” approach clearly works.”

However, it is unclear if Tesco’s analysis of the relative effectiveness of a bag tax stacks up. Last month, M &S announced that it had achieved an 80 per cent drop in the distribution of food carrier bags following the recent introduction of a five pence charge for the bags.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (16)

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  1. Hi Mrs Green,

    That is an interesting comparison. My preference is incentive-led change which is a positive step, everybody wins, as long as the change is quick enough. That may be debatable here as superstores are masters of propaganda.

    M&S has seen a big percentage drop with the tax. This suggests bag charges work. Here customers may be more environmentally savvy as well.

    They should all quote the same type of figure for valid comparison. Fashion can influence, ladies especially, and this has been used on several occasions.

  2. Mrs Green says:

    John, I thought the article was great.
    I agree that incentive led change is best, but it’s interesting to see that the ‘carrot’ has promoted a 40% decrease in plastic carrier bags, whereas the ‘stick’ has resulted in 80%.

    But as you say, statistics can be manipulated to mean whatever you want them too πŸ˜‰

  3. That’s really great. My grocery store was offering a $.03 credit for each reusable bag I brought in, but now it has stopped that. I still bring my bags, but I’m wondering if more people would if the monetary incentive was there.

  4. Hi Mrs Green,

    The “stick” has its uses and M&S must be applauded for their effort.

    Your post on Chris’s latest post was a great addition to my earlier entry. Thanks for the support for Chris. In one of the earlier posts the PPP (plastic packaging personnel) have jumped in again this time with “scientific proof” of the wonder of plastic. They will not see the error of their ways.

  5. Mrs Green says:

    What a shame the incentive stopped, Kristen. I wonder if they’ve seen an increase in the amount of bags they’ve given out since they took away the incentive.

  6. Mrs Green says:

    Hi John,
    we both posted at the same time. I think the comments on Chris’s blog are gradually erring towards the supportive now; after a couple of weeks.
    Chris has had a wonderful week with minimal plastic waste – her efforts are to be applauded, especially as she threw herself in at the deep end!

  7. Hi Mrs Green,

    There are more positive posts now, which is an improvement. In the US The PPP are opposing states putting a ban on plastic bags, using all kinds of underhand legal tactics against the green movement. It said that people can overcome their posturing by mass action.

    Over here this mob has a similar mentality, with lobby influence etc. It is well to know the opposition.

  8. I love my cloth bags….. I use this site for a pattern and use up all sorts of fabric to make bags: http://www.morsbags.com/ I’ve used a torn duvet cover, a bag of scraps from my Mum, a t-shirt, all sorts and they’re easy to make.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    John; I feel that Chris’s progress is gradually sending the ‘opposition’ away. She is doing so well and this has clearly been an eye opener for her; as it is for us!

    Sarah – have you ever thought of selling your morsbags through your site? People like me who have zero sewing skills could benefit a great deal!

  10. dottyspots says:

    Oh crikey! They’ve reduced them by 2 billion – how many bags were going out before that :0(

    I have some sewn bags (including one Sarah made for me :0) but I have also crocheted shopping bags as a way of using up my space-sucking yarn stash.

  11. Because of the way m cart works and that each bag is individually made I chose not to. But I DO have them on my Climate mall shop

  12. Mrs Green says:

    Dottyspots; that figure is shocking isn’t it? That was my first question too. 40% sounds a lot, but we are still talking billions of bags.

    Crocheting and knitting – you women are just too talented.

    I’ll take a look at your climate mall shop Sarah – thank you!

  13. Pattern for knitting a shopping bag:
    http://scrumptiousliving.wordpress.com/1bag/
    I can sew a bit but I don’t knit. Umm, yet, someone keeps suggesting I could learn…
    πŸ˜€
    Sarah

  14. Mrs Green says:

    I just shared over on another thread that I knitted a snake yesterday! Little Miss Green has been pestering me for a ‘family of snakes’. I think the last time I knitted I was probably a few years older than her. It’s just a long strip of plain knit rolled up and sewn together, but she adores her already.
    I don’t think I’m quite up to knitting a shopping bag, but I reckon some of our readers will be able to take full advantage of that – thank you for sharing it here πŸ™‚

  15. dottyspots says:

    Ooooh – you should see the spider I found on Kathryn Ivy’s blog. I’ve posted a pic of him on my blog with a link through to her, he’s really fabulous!

  16. Mrs Green says:

    Oh, now he is CUTE – dd would love him. She loves the real things; the bigger the better.
    Tonight I’m knitting my second snake for her family LOL! I wonder if I can get someone to make one of those spiders for her. I’ll have to ask Grandma Green if she is up to the challenge……

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