With plastic bags under ever more intense scrutiny for their damage to the environment a new levy aimed at retailers might encourage brands to reconsider their bags in the marketing strategy.
As the ‘difficult one’ in the range of materials that can be recycled, plastic can take 100’s of years to break down naturally in landfill sites. According to The Telegraph, supermarkets handed out in excess of 8 billion plastic bags last year – which is the highest number for four years. The data was taken from Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose over the past six years. As the facts around this pollutant of an item have become better known, supermarkets have responded by encouraging us to use and reuse bags of our own. This will only become more of an issue when in 2015 supermarkets will be charged 5p a new bag by the Government. Retailers in Scotland will start charging the levy from October this year. What’s more, The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) wants local, smaller shops to be included in the scheme. There are even rumblings that the time will come for an outright ban.
So from the consumers’ point of view it will be a case of expect to either bring your own bags for those shopping excursions or pay more for new ones. Whilst there is an awareness and campaigns to bring your own bags in supermarkets and other retailers, next year there could be a forced step change in the way we use bags due to the new levy.
The fact is – we need bags – so more and more people are stockpiling their own sturdy bags at home. High quality bags which last longer are therefore retained and branded bags that are attractive are not thrown away so readily. For retail businesses we may well be on the cusp of a time when designing your branded bag is more important than ever, as it may be repeatedly used by people for groceries and other excursions – a poster on the move as people reuse and favourite them for shopping. What’s more there is a wide range of materials now available for shop bags which retailers should be aware of.
A Wiltshire based bag manufacturer, The Paper Bag Company designs bespoke branded bags to order for major retail businesses including Wagamama and Vera Wang, from a range of paper based materials. Owner, Jon Marling, believes that bags are the key promotional tool for a company and should not be an oversight in how you represent your business and its brand values.
“Bags can be beautiful things, seriously! Plastic is not necessary – you can have canvas, cotton or even bamboo material for the bags,” enthuses Marling. “Being aware of how consumers use and perceive bags is important as people reuse their bags every day. If you are a retailer – think about the design impact and usability of that bag. Government policy may soon penalise you for having plastic bags and it may soon be frowned on to be handing out bags that are easy to throw away and hard to recycle. The bag your company uses is the thing a customer takes away with the brand name on it and the bag reflects that brand to others, it should therefore not be an afterthought. It’s a good time for retail companies to examine the materials they use for their bags.”
The European Commission has said that individuals dispose of 500 bags a year.
Do customers want plastic bags?
Out of a survey including 1000 people, 51.3% of people agreed that they prefer using paper bags for shopping than plastic bags. South West England was the most eco region with 64.3% preferring the use of paper bags. The West Midlands were the least eco region with 61.7% preferring the use of plastic bags.