Wow, what a busy few months it’s been. But here we are again.
Let me begin with the “Plastic Bag Ban” here in Australia.
Single use plastic bags are, and have been a very large part of most of our lives for as long as many can remember. A recent decision by our biggest retailers Coles & Woolworths to start phasing them out in favour of “reusable plastic bags” is both, welcome & long overdue.
My household generally does most of our grocery shopping at Aldi, so I haven’t used a ‘single use’ for some time. As we all know, Aldi never has offered free plastic bags to shoppers, they have always been “heavy duty plastic” at 15c a pop. It’s not uncommon to see shoppers at the checkout pull out a bunch of these for reuse and likely quite a few times over.
Woolworths and Coles recently decided to join the ‘good environmental values’ train by hopping on at the last minute, without a ticket and without their luggage it seems (looking at you Coles)
In NSW, we were informed about the phasing our of single use bags for some time in the lead up to the 1st July changeover. I saw signs on every single self service register and prominently in the Woolworths stores that I had visited.
Somehow, everyone over the age of 55, with a baby or with an opinion that ‘climate change isn’t real’ seemed to have missed this entirely.
This led to a huge increase in abuse towards retail staff at the supermarkets as well as a huge rise in complaints, eventually forcing the hands of these retailers into doling out free ‘reusable’ plastic bags free for the next 10 days back in July.
Fast forward a month and Coles announced it will continue to giving out the reusable plastic (heavy duty ones) for free, indefinitely. This is because of complaints from customers who are having trouble remembering their reusable bags.
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?
Here’s an idea, how about you give these shoppers a box, instead of compacting them out the back. Or, if they don’t want to buy a bag, then the can just get a refund, then go to, oh I don’t know, Woolworths and, oh wait, they’d have to buy a bag there too. Well they can go to an IG Ahhhh nope, IGA has phased out freebies too.
Lets face it, this corporate bastardly is a cheap, disgusting move to try and lure shoppers from your competitor, who is sticking to their guns. While yes, you may schmooze some of the customers who can’t afford, or don’t want to pay for bags, over to you, most of the reaction from middle Australia has been one of disgust, SO I suspect in the long run, you’ll probably lose more than you would otherwise gain.
Fuck you Coles. I’ve never shopped with you before and now I have no reason to start. This is corporate bastardly at its finest.
More on whinging Australians….
Some of the ridiculous arguments against the ban was that ‘single use’ bags aren’t really single use. While I don’t disagree, and regularly used a small stockpile I had for everything, from carrying booze to parties, using as rubbish bags, to using as kitty litter liners, I’m very well versed in the reusability of the bags. Fact remans, a very large amounts of these go straight to landfill, without being reused.
Another stupidly overused argument was that ‘green bags’ are just as damaging to the environment (partly true, particularly if you use them once and then throw them out)What these arguments don’t address, is that the single use bag ban addresses two things.It places a price trigger on plastic usage. When you’re forced to pay for plastic, it makes you think about whether you need it. It forced you to spend your hard earned money on something you would have otherwise thrown away without second though. I bet every person that in the past has forgotten their bag at Aldi, has either, used a box from the shelf, or bought a plastic one, and reused it a few times to justify paying for it. Thats why its called a price trigger. It triggers your brain to think about what you’re spending your money on.
Price triggers are particularly effective at reducing use and raising awareness.
The second benefit of the price trigger is also the second point. It allows us to address the environmental concerns that single use bags have. This is a behavioural change. No one is staying that totally phasing out plastic bags will save the world (it will certainly help) merely that triggering you to think about reuse, whether it be a heavy duty bag, calico, green bag, hessian bag or a paper one. These all change behaviours and create positive habits around reusing, which in turn lowers your environmental footprint. There’s also s subset of people calling for the use of paper bags. While yes, paper is better for the environment after use, because it is bio-degradable (not to be confused with degradable) it is energy intensive to create, not to mention you need a shit tonne of tress, usually though non sustainable farming methods in poorer countries to create, mill and pulp the paper for use. So paper, while yes, is in some ways better, not entirely.
Heres a really handy video on reusable bags.
Moving on to The 3 R’s.
Normally we think of these as Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
In todays case, I’ll be using these as Rebrand, Reeducate & Recidivism
Today during a quick visit to Woolworths I saw these packaged Bananas.
Yes, you’re looking at small bananas, packaged in a plastic, non reusable carry bag, targeted at kids.
My initial thoughts were, why? What on earth would possess a giant supermarket chain to put small bananas in a plastic bag.
I mean, on one hand, Woolworths play the ‘good corporate environmentalist’ in the public eye, saying we are sticking to our guns on the plastic bag ‘ban’ but on the other, continually introduce lines of plastic wrapped fresh produce.
This isn’t the first time they have come under fire for doing it either.
While we package things as “mini bananas for kids” (We all know a kid is never going to finish a full size Cavendish banana) what we are really doing is re-educating you and your children to believing that this is actually ‘separate’ produce to say, adult sized bananas and therefore should be packaged differently.
Now we have the convenient option to put our brand on them, placing our logo and kids colourful font on the bag so you’ll always remember Woolworths makes produce for kids.
Now, back in 2017, an online petition was started because consumers were growing tired of unnecessary plastic wrapping on produce. The outcome was that supermarkets promised to address this and are committed to reducing the amount of plastic in their stores.
On the 30th April 2017 Woolworths stated “We will continue to work with all of our suppliers to actively pursue packaging alternatives that reduce the amount of packaging or increasing its recyclability where possible,”
Why then, do you continue to introduce new lines of fresh produce wrapped in plastic?Tell me again how many of these same fruits and vegetables you wrapped in plastic 25 years ago?
So while the major supermarkets pay lip service to the media spotlight and consumer petitions, they slip so easily back into these recidivist branding habits which see fruit THAT HAS A PROTECTIVE SKIN wrapped in plastic and target towards children, normalising the view that fruit should come wrapped in a plastic bag or wrapper.
You, the consumer, are being swindled into believing these conglomerates actually are good corporate citizens when they are anything but.
You just have to look past the clear packaging to see it.