A BALBRIGGAN supermarket has joined the growing number of retailers supporting green principles with the launch of a bag that it hopes will be re-used again and again by local shoppers.
SuperValu is currently signing its customers up to the idea that, just like a pet, a bag is for life.
Manager Shea Smith is planning a one-week promotion to give away the ‘Bag for Life’, which will normally cost 10p.
A very nominal sum given the supermarket’s promise to replace it free of charge if even after bearing the weight of many kilos of comestibles it tears or breaks.
Mr Smith explained that the supermarket, a member of the Musgrave SuperValu-Centra group, supports Environment Minister Noel Dempsey in his efforts to reduce plastic bag waste.
‘We have first hand experience of the damage plastic bags cause through SuperValu’s national sponsorship of the Tidy Towns competition,’ he said.
According to the group, the 10p charge planned on plastic bags should achieve the objective of reducing waste. ‘Unless the principle of ‘the polluter pays’ is in action it is difficult to make people change habits.’
Supporting the levy, the supermarket says that if supermarkets themselves were to pay the charge, they would simply absorb the cost into the business and that there would then be no ‘disincentive to waste or encouragement for shoppers to re-use old bags’.
Cardboard boxes are also available in most of the group’s stores, as are paper bags for smaller purchases, says the supermarket chain.
‘The company is also looking at re-introducing a number of initiatives including the ‘smart box’ and both canvas and reinforced paper bag alternative which, when initially introduced some years back, had little take-up by consumers.’
Green Party TD for Dublin North Trevor Sargent, who has pressed local supermarkets to support ‘green’ initiatives and re-usable bags, welcomed the launch of the ‘Bag for Life’ at the Balbriggan store.
However, it was his view that shoppers and consumers really need financial incentives (or in some cases disincentives) before they will support recycling and green initiatives.
The TD points out that there are indeed forms of plastic that can be recycled and that these manufacturing techniques need to be encouraged where possible.
Ironically, there are firms all over Ireland which use the waste materials commonly produced in our homes on a daily basis in their manufacturing processes but they simply can’t get their hands on enough of them because we don’t recycle, he points out.
One firm in Co Meath uses the plastic (PET) bottles which are now ‘wall to wall’ in supermarkets containing minerals and water etc. but has very few sources for such empties because most of them end up in landfill sites.
Another firm uses household batteries in its own manufacturing facility, and the same difficulty applies there.
‘Raising awareness is just a small part of the job required but publicity is an important part so I would not downgrade that,’ he said.
‘I am pleased that SuperValu are taking the initiative and I would encourage people to get into the habit of putting the bag in a place where they will find it and not forget it when they go shopping.’
Deputy Sargent says it is a useful idea to load the bags up with empty drinks cans or glass containers so that they can go to the bottle bank at the supermarket and then use the empty bags for their shopping.
He believes that what is really needed to change people’s habits is a return of the ‘deposit’ on glass bottles and containers and on drinks cans.
Citing the practice in the US, where shops give money back on such containers, he points out that it’s an incentive because if the adults don’t collect them, the children certainly will.
Relatives over from Oregon recently were shocked to find Fingal littered with materials which was clearly reusable and which they would never see lining the streets in their own country or state, the TD said.
Minister Dempsey’s 10p plastic bag charge is due to be introduced later this year, despite strong lobbying from the powerful plastics industry. Anyone who picks up a ‘bag for life’ before then will be ahead of the posse in recycling terms - get ‘em free while you can in other words.
The SuperValu bag has already been tried and tested by the Green TD, who filled one with tins of cat food and assures customers that it took the strain very well!