The plastic bag charge… the PR winners and losers

Supermarkets across England are set to take a PR battering today.  There’ll be disgruntled shoppers, longer queues, delays at the self-service, and a few angry customers threatening boycott. But unlike the farmers’ milk pricing issue and the horse meat scandal, this isn’t caused by the decision from the supermarket.

The government has introduced the 5p charge on plastic bags, in a bid to reduce the number handed out in supermarkets and large retailers, thus helping the environment.  While this has been the case in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for years, England is finally following suit.

Of course, this will ruffle a few feathers, as those caught short without bags – and there will be many – will feel loathed about the charge.  After all, removing something which was in free and plentiful supply for decades is likely to cause disruption, particularly as most supermarkets offer self-service checkouts.

Supermarkets themselves will no doubt feel the strain as they along with shoppers navigate this new, plastic-poor world.

However there is arguably one winner in all this, the producers of trendy cotton shopping bags, with catchy slogans such as ‘Keep calm and carry on shopping’.

So while supermarkets may suffer for their complicity in the bag charges, retailers of shopping bags may capitalise on this gap in the market, not to mention boosting their reputation off the back of the PR interest garnered from the plastic bag charge.

Halima Khatun

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