It was announced recently that the country’s big four supermarkets had failed to hit the voluntary target of a 50 per cent cut in plastic carrier bags given out in store compared to 2006 figures. But, because of its policy of not handing out free bags, East of England has cut usage by a staggering 84 per cent.
Chief Executive Richard Samson told the News: “When we introduced the scheme we had hoped for a reduction of around 75 to 80 per cent. In fact, we have achieved a reduction of 84 per cent on the previous year’s figures, which is way ahead of the industry average and sets a clear benchmark for others to follow.
“We’re delighted that our customers have readily embraced our scheme and we are now saving over half a million carrier bags a week from going to landfill. So far, the total number saved has been 25 million!”
Added Mr Samson: “There is now a huge public awareness about this issue and customers are much more open to change than they are being given credit for by some other retailers.
“But to make real progress nationally we now need the other major supermarket chains to bite the bullet and stop giving away free carrier bags. If our competitors followed our lead there would be huge benefits to communities across the country.”
East of England encourages customers to reuse their own bags and charges 1p for its small degradable plastic carrier bag and 2p for the large size. A selection of environmentally friendly alternatives is also available including a range of Co-op Bags for Life.
The society is keen to emphasise its environmental credentials and purchases all its electricity from green sources and employs an energy manager to address energy saving initiatives within the business.
In addition, the society works with a dedicated consultant from the Carbon Trust on carbon management and incorporates energy efficient systems and equipment into new and refurbished stores and buildings.