Checkout hell

On the whole, I don't like supermarket checkouts. Not the queueing - as a Brit this is second nature - but they seem to pile on extras designed specifically to make me snarl.

First there is this ludicrous greenwash of no longer giving out free carrier bags to 'help the environment'. Sorry, it's to help the supermarket. Not only do they lose the cost of providing all those freebies, they also gain profits from selling us the bags we now need to replace the carriers. Not just the 'bag for life' - everyone I know reuses carrier bags as rubbish bags, dog poo bags and more.

Only the other day I was watching a TV show where we were encouraged to put chicken carcases in double bags to minimize risk of nasty things happening in the wheelie bin. Now we have to buy all those binliners and dog poo bags - which means more cash for the supermarkets. What's most irritating is the way they label this action as green. It forces us to move from using bags twice to single use. Hmm, very green. When Ireland enforced this a few years ago, the country consumed more of the film used to make plastic bags, not less.

Still, I grin and bear it and wheel out the Leclerc/Waitrose bags for life (that'll show them in Sainsbury's), and then I see it. That most dreaded of sights at the end of the checkout. Girl Guides doing a bag pack. Someone ban it, please - it has to be bad for the evironment. I do not want youngsters pawing through my shopping and putting all the wrong things together. If only they would ask for payment not to help.

And then the final delight. Because I have used my bags for life, Sainsbury's will reward me by giving extra points (or something) for each bag I've used. 'How many bags?' asks the checkout person. Sadly, I am too slow in thinking to look her in the eye and say 'Five hundred and thirty-seven' with a perfectly straight face. I just mumble 'Four.' But remind me to bring at least one bag per item in next time.

Arggghhh! Rant over. Normal service will be resumed with the next post.


  1. When Ireland enforced this a few years ago, the country consumed more of the film used to make plastic bags, not less.
    I'm curious to see the figures on this. Wiki cites the BBC as saying that plastic bag usage decreased by 90%, but of course that's not quite the same thing. A comparison would also need to be made with other countries: I suspect the amount of packaging has increased elsewhere too.

  2. Bob - it's not just not quite the same thing, it's not at all the same thing.

    What the BBC is citing is usage of disposable carrier bags decreasing by 90%. However sales of binliners etc. shot up, and (I admit, I am doing this from memory, and can't be bothered to look up the source) overall plastic film use increased.

  3. Ha! Nothing like a good rant. The other day a pack of girl guides reported back to their akela (or whoever) and said they'd done a good deed - help that nice Mr Clegg pack his shopping. "But why did it tale all 537 of you?" she asked. "Because he didn't want any help," they said, "and it took most of us to hold him down".

  4. Nice rant Brian! You should pick the till with Liz on it next time they ask you how many bags... Not that she'd do anything dishonest. What we should do is ban plastic bags. I believe Rwanda has... The blooming things are all over the place here. I'm in Dhaka at the moment and the street kids go around filling bags full of them presumably for recycling...? They blow around like those bushes you see in cowboy movies... Rather worryingly the same people refill water bottles... Make sure they are properly sealed next time you buy some water!

  5. Thanks, Simon, I'll watch out for Liz!

    We could certainly do with sensible alternatives on the shelves, so we don't need to use plastic bags for binliners and poo bags, if we don't want to. I've seen it suggested that we use newspapers, but a) they really don't make good bags, and b) I don't subscribe to a newspaper, so I'd have to buy one (bye-bye trees) just for the purpose, which seems counter-productive.

    Of course, another problem is that the solutions tend not to be tailored to local needs. I was talking to the local council guy in charge of recycling. He said they'd prefer it if people used more plastic bags and less biodegradable bags, because in this area they have huge landfill capacity, but don't want the greenhouse gas emissions that come from biodegradable bags breaking down.

    Now all I need is a solution to the girl guide problem...


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