No bag please – no plastic bags in supermarkets

No bag please - no plastic bags in supermarkets

… You’ve removed all your plastic bags from the check-outs. The only problem is – you haven’t!

Another report from the No Bag Lady.

by Catherine Baker

I feel cheated, that’s how I feel. Lied to. Let down. I feel as though somebody promised to take me out to a really nice restaurant in a hydrogen fuel cell sports car, then dragged me to McDonald’s in a Reliant Robin.

You see, about six months or so after Mookychick published No Bag Please, my article bemoaning the use of plastic bags in supermarkets, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s both announced the removal of plastic bags from their check-outs.

Yes, they said they were going to take those nasty plastic bags away. Yay, we squealed, yippee, and skipped off down the high street waving our re-used carrier bags in the air. We put them away again though, as we looked a bit silly, and then we went shopping.

The mantra of that first No Bag Please article consists of three easy words you can use to help save the world.

No Bag Please

No Bag Please

No Bag Please

No Bag Please

No Bag Please

You might need to say it quickly (‘ohnobagplease’) or slowly (‘N o B a g P l e a s e’).

You will almost always need to say it more than once. But with a bit of preparation and actually taking a re-used carrier bag with you when you go shopping, these three words really can help save the world. Plastic bags are incredibly bad for the environment, and the UK uses around 2.8 million tonnes of plastic waste every year.

So hooray! I thought, those big clever men really did listen to us and they really have taken the plastic bags away. Then I went shopping in Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s, and I got to the check-out, and the cashier asked me in passing whilst he tore off another brand new carrier bag from the pile sitting right there on top of the check-out and stuffed my shopping into it – “would you like a bag?”

I looked at him steely-eyed as black rage swarmed over me, and I said “No, no thank you… NO BAG PLEASE.”

Why? Why am I still saying this? I’m not only seeing plastic bags kept under the counter, like the unsanitary disgusting things they are. I’m also seeing them on top of the check-out, just the same as they always were before the alleged “removal”.

And the cashiers are STILL asking me “would you like a bag?”

“You can still have them you know. They’re lovely, slippy, silky-smooth, flippy-whippy dreamy carrier bags!”

“Lovely they are… are you sure you don’t want one? Lovely, lovely carrier bags.”

No. I don’t want your plastic bags. Your stupid companies are wrapping the entire planet in plastic flipping bags.

I would have said more and less reasonably, and one day I might if they catch me in the wrong mood.

I did say something else though recently to the manager of my local Sainsbury’s. This was after I had a disagreement over plastic bags with the lady serving at the deli counter.

This is how it started.

Me: Hi there! Can I have a piece of that mozzarella and tomato quiche, and could you just wrap it in a piece of that greaseproof paper you have, so I don’t have to take a plastic bag.

Deli Counter lady: No.

Deli Counter lady: We don’t have greaseproof paper, we only have these. (Waves plastic wrapping sheet at me).

Me: Hmmph. Okay. So can I have it wrapped in just the one sheet then?

Deli Counter lady: Blank stare, picks up quiche, dumps quiche in middle of sheet of plastic, wraps it, picks up plastic bag, starts to put quiche and plastic wrapping sheet in plastic bag.

We can stop there really. I spoke to the manager and asked him why I was being forced to have a plastic bag. He stared at me visibly confused. I believe the dialogue running through his brain read something like this… “Packaging bad, annoying customer, packaging bad, annoying customer, packaging bad, packaging bad, ANNOYING CUSTOMER!”

Then he said: “Well, madam – we have to use the plastic bags as they state the expiry dates of the fresh deli items”. I asked, being me, if the expiry dates weren’t stated on the labels that are printed and stuck on all the layers of plastic, and he said no.

Disbelieving that he would actually force a plastic bag upon me, I said I still didn’t want one. He said that was okay but I would have to take it at my own risk, not knowing what the expiry date was. Funnily enough, when I got home there was a nice little paper label informing me of my quiche’s expiry date anyway. What’s more, the check-out lady could see the price easily on that same label, and when I got to the check-out, there were plastic bags scattered all over it.

Sainsbury’s statement on plastic bags (posted on their own website, on October 1, 2008) reads:

“Sainsbury’s will also be removing free carrier bags from check-outs in all its stores (excluding convenience) from today. The bags will still be available but hidden from sight at the tills.”

My local Sainsbury’s has 30 check-outs so I do not believe it is a “convenience store”. It is, in fact, a “very big store”.

I am now in the process of emailing the following questions to Sainsbury’s, along with a copy of this article:

Dear Sainsbury’s,

1. Please could you let me know why you are still trying to force plastic bags upon me at every given opportunity?

2. Why do your staff still offer them to me immediately, whether they are on the counter or not, even when I am standing there with my own re-used plastic bags in my hand?

3. Why are you publishing false information on your website and stating that you have removed plastic bags from your check-outs, when they are in fact still scattered all over the check-outs, specifically 16 out of 30 check-outs in my local store in Tooting? (Here are photographs I took yesterday, which show all the new disposable plastic bags in the same picture as the signs you display saying that you have removed them).

Kind regards,

Catherine Baker (The No Bag Lady)

The most laughable thing is that if you look carefully in the “we have removed our free bags” picture displayed on aisle 23, shown in our photos, you will see in the top right hand corner of the picture, the caption saying “our values make us different”.

Well, Sainsbury’s… from what I’ve seen so far, your values don’t make you different, do they? There’s no difference at all!

no plastic bags in sainsburys supermarketsno plastic bags in sainsburys supermarkets

The sign reads “From wed 10 October we will be removing our free bags from the check-out to encourage bag re-use.” But look! Free bags are littering the check-out!

no plastic bags in sainsburys supermarkets

And here they’ve hung the free plastic bags right beneath the sign!

no plastic bags in sainsburys supermarkets

At the self-service check-out… free plastic bags

no plastic bags in sainsburys supermarkets

“We have removed our free bags from display”? No you haven’t. What’s that behind you?