Gone Shopping

Whenever I find myself at the supermarket check-out a cold chill runs down my spine. I’ve inadvertently left my long life green plastic bags at home or in the boot of the car. Why do I keep forgetting? Then it’s my turn to face the till operator, automatically going into my best ‘humble’ mode. We have a brief exchange of pleasantries in which I pretend that my visit has been as a result of a spur of the moment decision and, as a consequence, my green bags have been left behind. There was no need to worry. We both laugh at how ‘silly’ I’ve been, a mild friendly reprimand reminding me of my primary school days. Plastic non-recyclable bags are then available to me at no extra cost: as many as I need. So what is the point in the retail industry’s lip-service exercise which is designed to assure us all that they are now truly serious about their ‘green’ credentials? My plastic bags still make their way to the black landfill bin at my home whilst my green reusable supermarket bags languish in prim condition in the porch. The joke is that the reusable bags originally cost me money on the understanding that I’ll never need those nasty things again, even though the reusable ones are still made from plastic. I can only come to one conclusion. As long as the standard plastic bags remain available to you and me the likelihood is that the new ones will be consigned to the part of our respective brains labelled ‘unimportant: not serious’. There’s no doubt that our shopping habits have changed forever with the arrival of the out-of-town-centre hypermarket which simply accommodates an entire culture shift aligned with the advent of more efficient home refrigeration, freezers, microwaves, independent family mobility and even cooking facilities. Long gone are the days when my mum would head off to Studfall shops carrying her one and only shopping bag that would be filled with a daily quest for fresh bread, meat, fruit and vegetables. If she couldn’t carry any more or had forgotten to get anything then I would invariably be sent back after school with the self same shopping bag. It would have been pointless arriving at the shops in the sixties without a shopping bag: there was no alternative, and the thought that a shopkeeper would give us a free plastic bag is frankly laughable. I have therefore concluded that, despite my own failings, there is no alternative. The non-disposable plastic bag must be consigned to history, unavailable anywhere. Though until the major chains get their collective heads together to put a stop on their provision nothing will change. Surely we shouldn’t have a need for enforcing legislation? Then and only then might we learn another lesson from the past and remember to take the reusable shopping bags with us. I’m sure there will have to be a time when even they will be manufactured from something other than plastic.

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