No-one can escape the fact that the planet's resources are running out – and have been for a long time.
There's more and more pressure to "go-green" every day. Yet by making small adjustments here and there, using recycling bins, using more efficient vehicles, car-sharing or shopping responsibly, we can all make a difference.
The Bag Tax was introduced in England on October 5, 2015, the last of the home nations to do so. It was among the most visible moves by government to get us to switch from flimsy throwaway plastic bags to more heavy duty, reusable, eco-friendly carrier bags.
Official figures show the numbers of single-use bags by the seven biggest supermarket chains has declined by more than 86% since the charge was introduced.
And the total number of single-use plastic carriers sold by all 249 UK retailers who reported in 2017-18 was 1.75 billion – down from 7.6 billion in 2014.
On the surface all this seems positive but recent data paints a different picture. Currently, supermarket shoppers pay 5p per single use plastic bag, or 10p for a Bag-for-Life: generally made from more heavy duty types of plastic, creating a bag with a much longer life span. Paper bags are not affected by the tax.
As a result, the UK is has seen a huge increase in the sale of plastic Bags-for-Life – at least 1.18 billion. In reality, because of their generally larger size, and thicker profile, these are actually estimated to contain at least twice the amount of plastic contained in the old single use throwaways.
It would be great if these purchases lead to more eco-friendly usage, such as re-use at the weekly supermarket shop. However, new research shows that although consumers buy Bags-for-Life with good intentions, they generally end up by using them in the same way as the old single use plastic bags.
The statistics make grim reading: more and more 10p Bag-for-Life are ending up in landfill – despite clear indications to consumers that they can be recycled. A lot simply end up as bin liners.
What's worse is that the heavier duty Bags-for-Life are tougher than the single use bags they were meant to replace, and make take even longer to degrade.
Some critics suggest that the Bag Tax concept needs an adjustment to have any real impact on the vast amounts of plastic still ending up in our streets and hedgerows and rivers, and choking sea life.
At Bags of Ideas, we believe there are real solutions. If the widely-available alternative to single-use bags was a material other than plastic – such as a cotton or jute bag complete with your company brand – we might really help to save the planet.
Eco-friendly natural-material Bag-for-Life designs also offer perceived value to the customer. Heavy duty, practical and memorable, a reusable shopping bag is much more likely to end up back at the check-out week after week.
Britain's supermarkets and high street stores do offer a wide range of real eco Bags-for-Life. They range from tote bags and printed shoulder bags, to larger jute shopping bags and cotton bags, but it's clear that the use of this style of branded Bag-for-Life needs to be encouraged.
Bags of Ideas sees many potential strategies to increase the use of eco-bags, reducing the use of plastic and enhancing brand recognition and public image through the increased visibility of personalised Bags-for-Life. Our custom bag company specialises in finding great solutions to particular problems.
We believe we've identified several opportunities – other than selling directly to consumers – that utilise branded reusable shopping printed Bags-for-Life. All are made from alternatives to plastic, which not only reduce single bag usage but, at the same time, improve your Brand's public image and increase public awareness. Customer loyalty is the foundation of two clear opportunities to increase the usage of printed plastic-free Bags-for-Life.
Many retailers already run loyalty schemes where customers exchange collected points for in-store discounts or special offers. Why not allow customers to exchange some of their points for eco-friendly shopper bags made from natural fibres?
This concept is attractive to company and consumer alike: on the one hand, the shopper "pays" nothing for the gift of the bag, and on the other the retailer retains the customer's loyalty through repeat custom. In practice, point accumulation easily offsets the cost of manufacture of a custom-designed bag, plus there's the added benefit of increased brand awareness. Design you Bag-for-Life correctly, and consumers will not only use it for the weekly shop, but for everyday use.
Alternatively, a free Bag-for-Life could be offered to customers based on in-store expenditure. Spend X and get one free grocery bag, spend Y and receive two, and so on. To encourage repeat custom retailers might also offer a discount for customers returning to shop with the company-branded bags.
But suppose your company does not sell physical products. What benefit might a custom tote Bag-for-Life bring?
Bags of Ideas believes your company promotional profile would also benefit from incorporating this style of bag. Whether you attend trade shows or university fairs, handing out an eco-friendly, reusable Bag-for-Life will almost certainly improve the reach of your promotion. Choose the right custom bag company branding, and it will be re-used over and over, not only reducing cost per impression, but also ensuring potential clients see your brand.
Inevitably, approaching this topic from the right angle, can bring your custom promotional bags wholesale increases in visibility. And these benefits outweigh the costs because their reach extends beyond your direct customer. Not only are your helping the planet, you're helping your brand.