Is your shopping bag green?

Emma Hogan 6 February 2019

Are you concerned about how environmentally friendly you are?

Research by Morrisons found that one of their shoppers’ main concerns is how environmentally friendly we are in our grocery shopping.  

So how are they aiming to help us tackle our conscience?

Morrisons are particularly concerned about reducing plastic usage / pollution:

  • June 2018 saw Morrisons lead the way in replacing the plastic fresh food bags we use (e.g. for loose fruit & veg) with paper bags.
  • In Jan 2019 Morrisons announced a new paper shopping bag trial across the UK.  As part of this initiative, 8 stores across the UK will see a 50% increase in their plastic bag charge to 15p as well as the option to purchase a brand new, recyclable and resusable, paper bag for 20p.


Are these changes actually environmentally friendly? 

It depends. Critics suggest that whilst the move to paper bags helps to solve the problem of pollution, it instead contributes to the issue of climate change / global warming.  So what’s the argument?

Why plastic?
  • It can take three times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag versus a traditional plastic shopping bag.
  • Whilst paper bags are said to be reusable, each bag would need to be used 4 times or more to be better than plastic (unlikely due to the durability of paper).
  • Manufacture of paper bags involves tree felling and, if not done sustainably, this can lead to deforestation.
  • A higher concentration of toxic chemicals is produced during the felling process versus plastic bag manufacture.
  • Paper bags weigh more so the transportation of paper bags results in a greater carbon footprint.
Why paper?
  • BUT – supporters of the change agree that the move will positively impact the earth for years to come.  The use of paper means any escaped bags biodegrade within weeks whilst plastic can take years to properly break down.
  • Paper bags are more readily recycled by councils across the UK than plastic bags. (Check out RecycleNow to see whether your council accepts plastic bags)
  • Although manufacture involves felling, trees are a renewable resource.  On the other hand, most plastic bags are made from polyethylene from petroleum which is a non-renewable resource.


So what are our LaunchPanellists actually using?

We polled 109 LaunchPanellists to discover what we’re currently using. Just a few are using paper, more of us are using cotton bags but the majority of us are still stuck in our plastic ways.


Reuse & Recycle

Clearly there are  valid points on both sides of the paper / plastic debate but the consensus is that environmental impact, regardless of the bag material, is largely dependent on how we use these bags.  The more we reuse, the lesser the impact. So how many times should we aim to reuse?


For a paper bag to be classified as being environmentally friendly it must be used at least 3 times (and then recycled!).

Sticking to plastic? Grab a Bag for Life

Tested by our own researchers, the average Bag for Life made up to 6 supermarket trips.  Use them at least 4 times to make them environmentally friendly.

Cotton – the Ideal

These bags are without a doubt the most durable. Strong and sturdy we can carry everything in them from a bundle of veg to a stack of books. However, the Environmental Agency suggests that due to the high levels of water used in the cotton manufacturing process these need to be used at least 130 times to make them the best option for our planet. So as long as we can promise to stay loyal to our cotton bags we should be in luck!

Do you have an tips on reducing your carbon footprint? Share them with us on  Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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