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Morrisons is considering swapping out its plastic bags for life in favour of strong paper bags to boost its environmental credentials. The supermarket chain began trailing the switch in eight stores from Monday 17th August. If successful, the 30p paper bags will be rolled out to all of its 494 stores.
The trial comes as Covid-19 has challenged retailers’ efforts to reduce single-use plastic packaging. Although zero-waste retailers have reported increased footfall since the pandemic hit, experts have also noted that many newly health-conscious shoppers have become wary of unpackaged products.
Replacing reusable bags for life could be a new way for retailers to reduce their plastic use. For Morrisons, the move would save 90 million plastic bags from being used every year, or the equivalent of 3,510 tonnes of plastic per year. The retailer said there is evidence that bags for life were being used only once before being binned.
Morrisons’ chief executive David Potts said customers are “ready” to stop using plastic carrier bags as they seek to cut down on their plastic they use to help the environment. “We know that many are taking reusable bags back to store and, if they forget these, we have paper bags that are tough, convenient and a reusable alternative.”
The sturdy paper bags are easy to recycle and can carry up to 16kg – the equivalent of 13 bottles of wine – and around the same number of items as plastic alternatives.
Despite the caution around loose food products seen during the pandemic, it is clear that a majority of consumers believe retailers should do more to move towards more sustainable alternatives. Research from retail tech firm Ubamarket found that 82% of consumers believe the level of plastic packaging on food and drink products in the UK needs to be changed “drastically”. More than three-quarters of shoppers said that no matter how much they recycle, manufacturers and supermarkets are causing the most plastic pollution.
Morrisons is not the only retailer taking steps to cut down on its plastic use. A study by Tetra Pak found that a whopping 97% of retailers are making sustainable changes due to growing demand from consumers.
“It’s extremely encouraging to see Morrisons and other large retailers taking major steps towards creating a more sustainable future for the food retail sector, and retail across the board,” said Will Broome, CEO and founder of Ubamarket, which recently launched Plastic Alerts, a machine learning system that allows shoppers to scan a product for information on the recyclability of its packaging.
With large supermarket chains making moves towards sustainability, now is the time for the agile farm shops, delis and other independents to boost their eco-credentials to get ahead of the curve. “It is imperative that other retailers take heed of this and work quickly to establish their own sustainability goals and action plan,” Will says.