All retailers in Eden will need to charge customers 10p for a single-use plastic bag from Friday, but a pressure group seeking a more sustainable future for Penrith and the surrounding area feels the change in the law does not go far enough.
Jaki Bell, who is a member of Penrith Action for Community Transition (PACT), said they would like to encourage the Government to go even further than increasing the price of plastic bags and phase them out completely.
“What really needs to happen is for us to stop using plastic bags altogether —whether that’s single-use bags or the so-called bags for life. The best solution is to bring long-lasting reusable bags when we go shopping, such as ones made from cloth or jute,” said Jacki.
She said it can be very hard to avoid products which come in plastic packaging, but it was in everyone’s power to choose to take those goods home in a reusable bag.
“We need to add a reusable bag to the list of things we don’t leave the house without. Just that small shift in our habits would make all the difference, as we have done with COVID.
“Some retailers are already ahead of the curve and have stopped selling single-use plastic bags and bags for life,” said Jaki.
Morrisons, which has a store in Penrith, got rid of the 5p plastic bags in 2017, offering reusable paper bags for 30p instead, along with longer life options like jute bags, while the Co-op has introduced compostable single-use bags instead of plastic ones, and announced last month it was phasing out bags for life.
“Bags for life have caused a vast amount of plastic waste,” said Jaki.
“They’re often only used once, but they are made with more plastic than the single-use carriers. According to Greenpeace, in 2019 supermarkets distributed over 1.5 billion bags for life, weighing a total of 44,913 tonnes.
“We’re particularly glad to see that some retailers are phasing them out.”
She added: “It’s heartening to see that small business leaders are welcoming the introduction of a plastic bag charge for small shops, too.”
James Lowman, chief executive of the association of convenience stores, said: “We strongly welcome the inclusion of local shops and other small businesses into the successful plastic bag charging scheme, which not only helps the environment, but is also a great way for retailers to raise money for local and national charities.”
Jaki said there was a great opportunity now for small businesses to go one step further and stop selling plastic bags.
She said: “We’re fortunate here in Penrith to have more options now for avoiding plastic, whether that’s packaging or bags. Shoppers can find loose produce at the independent greengrocers, as well as at some supermarkets, and the Another Weigh zero-waste shop sells everything from herbs and pasta to shampoo without plastic packaging.
“Plastic bottles are one of the most common types of plastic that end up in the oceans, and that is something that PACT has been trying to reduce in Eden.
“We joined the national Refill scheme a few years ago, and there are now about 30 shops and businesses in and around Penrith where you can get a reusable water bottle filled with tap water free of charge, so that people don’t need to buy bottled water.
“We’re looking forward to reinvigorating the scheme next month when we’ll be taking part in World Refill Day on June 16.”
PACT has also been helping people in Eden to reduce waste in other ways. It runs the popular monthly Penrith Repair Café, where volunteers fix broken items free of charge, so they don’t get thrown away.
It also supports the Penrith and Eden Freegle group with running give and take events, where people can pass on things they no longer need and pick up some items they would find useful, for free.
“We’re looking forward to running these again when the pandemic situation allows. In the meantime, people can use the Freegle app or website to give away or ask for items.
In the past week, some of the many items posted in Eden ranged from golf clubs to a cot, beds, hanging baskets and a wheelbarrow,” said Jaki.