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Supermarkets have been adapting to the coronavirus pandemic over the last few months, introducing new rules and implementing changes to their stores. The crisis has also changed shoppers’ habits, with more Britons than ever shopping online in the hope of avoiding coming into contact with others. It also led to a rise in the use of plastic bags – but this is all set to change.
At the start of the lockdown there were fears over the use of reusable bags for shopping in case they helped spread the coronavirus.
Single-use plastics in the form of bags as well as gloves, masks and wipes became more popular due to safety fears.
However, as the lockdown is easing, some supermarkets are already starting to refocus on the fight against plastic.
Morrisons and Waitrose have been the first to reveal their plans to cut back on plastic bags – including the stronger “bag for life” options.
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In a bold move, Morrisons has set out its plans to become the first supermarket to remove all plastic carrier bags at checkouts.
The huge supermarket chain is running a trial for 12 weeks across eight stores, removing all plastic “bags for life” to see how shoppers cope with the changes.
If the trial is successful, the retailer plans to get rid of them completely across all stores.
Instead of plastic, the retailer is offering large reusable paper bags, which have been in stores since last year.
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The paper bags have a similar capacity to a bag for life, with handles that the store claims are strong enough to carry up to 16kg (the equivalent of 13 bottles of wine).
The bags are 100 percent PEFC accredited – meaning they are sourced from forests that are managed responsibly, and are manufactured at an eco-powered site in Wales.
The chain said that since the initial introduction of the paper bags in all of its stores, one in three shoppers have already made the switch.
Morrisons also revealed that removing plastic bags for life across all of its stores would save 90 million from being used, removing 3,510 tonnes of plastic a year.
David Potts, Chief Executive of Morrisons said: “We believe customers are ready to stop using plastic carrier bags as they want to reduce the amount of plastic they have in their lives and keep it out of the environment.
“We know that many are taking reusable bags back to store and if they forget these we have paper bags that are tough, convenient and a reusable alternative.”
However, the stores will still sell jute, cotton and reusable woven bags options in all stores, priced at £2.50, £1.50 and 60p respectively.
Waitrose has also reportedly said it will have a similar trial before the end of the year in order to cut back on plastic.
Details are yet to be announced, but the chain has also made a change for shoppers using plastic bags for online deliveries.
From this week, online customers will once again be able to recycle their carrier bags via their delivery driver after the retailer temporarily paused the service during the pandemic.
Customers will be asked to leave the carrier bags that they want to recycle outside of their homes so that drivers can collect them while maintaining social distancing.
They will also be able to return parcels they’ve received from John Lewis online via their delivery driver, once their online grocery delivery has been made.
George Leicester-Thackara, Head of Corporate Responsibility at the John Lewis Partnership, says: “During lockdown, we temporarily stopped recycling bags for online deliveries to keep our drivers and customers safe.
“As a result of customer demand and our ability to ensure the safety of our customers and Partners, we have taken the decision to build on the momentum we had prior to the pandemic and continue to reduce the use of plastics, which remains a priority for us and many of our customers.”
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