I received a comment from Iva, who describes herself as a baby environmentalist, about my recent post on Bag for Life. She told me that green bags (as it is known in the Philippines) are becoming an in-thing in Manila, which is a good thing as it helps our environment. I am glad to know about this development. When I was still in Cebu in 2002 I do not seem to recall seeing green bags sold in supermarkets. I already know about the promotion of the use of jute bags.
I am interested to know if the Philippine government has a policy on green bags/bags for life. Obviously, there is one here in the UK but I have to do some research on that. I will write a blogpost about the results later on. In the meantime, let me just describe the use of bag for life here in the UK from a user's viewpoint.
Bags for life have been in the major supermarkets here for a few years now. They come in different types and sizes, for example, jute bags and recyclable plastic bags. The featured bag in my earlier post is the cheapest type (10 pence each) and the most commonly used by consumers.
Encouraging consumers to use bags for life when they go shopping requires a change in their behaviour, which does not happen overnight. Most people still prefer to use the small but free carrier bags. Why? What could be more convenient than just going to the supermarket empty-handed. I should know as I am guilty of doing it at times. Even though I have a bag for life in my back pack for a little shopping after work, I also sometimes end up with an extra carrier bag of shopping.
I buy most of our family's food shopping during weekends. Even with the three or four bags for life that I brought, sometimes it is not enough. However, it is not entirely bad as it seems. Regular carrier bags nowadays are mostly made in part from recycled materials; besides I do reuse them at home in our small bins.
The "carrot" approach of encouraging consumers to use bags for life for their shopping needs to be complemented with a "stick" approach. Presently, UK consumers are now slowly being forced to pay for the carrier bag if they want to use them when shopping. Marks and Spencer supermarkets are already doing it since early this year, charging 5 pence for every carrier bag you use. However, all proceeds from its sale goes to local environmental projects the store supports. Later this year, Sainsbury's will follow suit. My family will be more affected by this change as we do most of our food shopping in a nearby branch. I will have to plan better when the time comes.
As consumers, it is not enough to be aware of the effects of plastic bags on the environment. We need to make individual action no matter how small to reduce, reuse and recycle the use of plastic bags when shopping for groceries. I am consciously doing action already but still need to improve on my behaviour until this becomes a natural thing for me to do. How about you? Have you done your bit?
Iva blogs about the environment at http://greenphils.com/