The Daily Telegraph
Supermarket brings ‘bags for life’ to an end
Morrisons to ditch plastic for paper over concerns shoppers only use things once before binning them
A supermarket chain could be the first to ditch “bags for life” amid concerns they are forgotten after a single use, while conservation groups warn that solving one problem may simply create another. In eight Morrisons stores the plastic bag will be replaced by a paper version. If the trial succeeds it could mean the end for 90million plastic bags used annually, the firm said. But campaigners warn producing paper bags may involve a bigger carbon footprint than plastic ones.
A SUPERMARKET chain has become the first to ditch “bags for life” amid concerns they are routinely discarded after a single use.
Morrisons has today started a trial in eight stores, replacing the ubiquitous plastic bag with a sturdy paper version.
If the trial succeeds, paper bags would be rolled out across all 494 of its stores, ending the use of 90 million plastic bags annually, the equivalent of 3,510 tons of plastic per year, the company said.
Campaigners claimed that while plastic carrier bag use had dropped significantly, sales of “bags for life,” which contain far more plastic, rose to 1.5billion in 2018.
David Potts, Morrisons’ chief executive, said: “We believe customers are ready to stop using plastic carrier bags as they want to reduce the amount of plastic they have in their lives and keep it out of 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 reusable.”
However, studies suggest that far from providing a more environmentally friendly alternative, paper can have a detrimental impact.
In 2011, a research paper produced by the Northern Ireland Assembly found it took more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it did to manufacture a plastic bag.
While plastic bags are produced from the waste products of oil refining, paper requires forests to be cut down.
The manufacturing process also produces a higher concentration of toxic chemicals, the study found, and because they weigh more than plastic, their transportation requires more energy, adding to their carbon footprint.
In 2006, the Environment Agency found that paper bags needed to be reused at least three times to make them more environmentally friendly than plastic bags. Bags made of cotton required 131 reuses due to the high amount of energy used to produce and fertilise cotton yarn.
In a 2018 life-cycle assessment, the Danish government found the classic plastic shopping bag had the smallest environmental impact when considering the impact of manufacturing on climate change, ozone depletion, water use, air pollution and human toxicity.
However, Dr Laura Foster, head of clean seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said such studies did not take littering into account and the detrimental effect of plastics on marine life.
She said: “Plastic is very difficult to recycle, whereas at least paper can be recycled and go into the standard waste stream. Getting rid of single-use bags entirely and swapping them for reusable bags is key.”
Nina Schrank, of Greenpeace UK, said Morrisons had taken a positive step, particularly as so many people used “bags for life” just once, which, she said, was “the worst of both worlds.”
She added: “However, paper bags require a significant amount of energy to produce them, so they are far from perfect. The best option is for people to opt for reusable carriers, like cotton bags or your favourite rucksack, which can help us avoid the throwaway culture that has caused a global environmental catastrophe.”
Morrisons said its paper bags could carry up to 16kg, had handles and were easily recyclable.
Last year Sainsbury’s said it had become the first UK supermarket to remove plastic bags for loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items.
Tesco has said it will stop using plastic bags with online deliveries, saving 2,000 tons of plastic annually.
Recent figures show plastic bag use fell 95 per after the 5p charge was introduced in 2015. Before that, about 7.6billion bags a year were used.
‘Plastic is very difficult to recycle, whereas paper can be recycled and go into the standard waste stream’