Are we producing so many ethical bags that it is becoming unethical? Bags for Life, Green Bags and cloth bags are all very wholesome but how many do we have stashed away in a cupboard that have rarely seen the light of day let alone a load of shopping?
Sainsbury's tried to make a designer statement with its ethical 'I'm Not a Plastic Bag' to give it an exclusive and therefore more desirable and usable quality but that back-fired when the green lobby unearthed disconcerting details about how the bag was produced in China and then shipped round the world.
Harrods perhaps tops the league with a value statement ethical bag that costs a mere £50. That is one ethical bag that is likely to be used more than once – but chances are you wouldn't have more than one and therefore still need to use plastic bags for the rest of the shopping.
The latest green bag scheme to be launched is a national effort aimed at independent retailers. Retailers are being invited to sign up to a deal that requires them to offer discounts or free gifts to users of the new 'Bag of Change'.
But retailers may not want to do that when they already have so many other local options. The North Laine Traders were the first to launch an ethical bag in Brighton. Since then the Council, Brighton Visitor, the Hove Business Association and countless other organisations have launched similar initiatives. Organisations in other towns and cities have done the same.
Perhaps there is some benefit in the fact that the organisation behind the Bag of Change has set up a web site and offers readers a free e-newsletter. They use this to provide information about retailers that have signed up and encourage readers to visit those stores.
The bags are also a cut above the norm in design terms with options varying in price from £14.99 to £35. The most expensive one is made from ethically tapped rubber from the Amazon – so one assumes a fair bit of carbon was burned shipping them to the UK.
Some commentators have suggested that we need to rethink the whole anti-plastic bag issue. There are companies based in the UK that produce bags from recycled plastic. They are cheap to buy and light and so can be shipped without burning too much carbon. These companies are also disposing of plastic that would otherwise end up in a landfill somewhere in this country. Is this the ethical way forward for British retailers?
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