5p plastic bag tax has been effective

Retailers in England moaned about having to charge customers 5p for single-use plastic bags and the government dragged its feet.

P1030059The good news is that since introducing the tax the number of bags in use has fallen by 85% or six billion.

That’s a lot of bags, almost 100 for every one in the UK.

The money raised by the tax goes to charitable causes. Most are environmental projects but some supermarkets have committed to help dementia research at UCL.

Some supermarkets give all the money less VAT to to charity while others make deductions

Overall the scheme has succeeded in producing benefits to wild life and the environment.

England might have come late to the party – long after countries like Denmark, Brazil, China, Mexico, Morocco, sub-saharan African states, Ireland, Wales and Scotland  – but it made good in the end.

Now let’s tackle plastic micro-beads!

Tesco feeling guilty maybe? And Sainsbury’s being clever

Last week it was reported in the press that Tesco was not donating ALL of the 5p it charges for carrier bags to charity.

They were keeping some of it back to cover expenses- which they are entitled to do for training staff and changing the till system but not the actual cost of the bags. However other supermarkets such as Waitrose, Morrisons, Asda, were passing on all of the 5p (less VAT) to charities.

Obviously not a good PR move for Tesco. So this weekend my local Tesco started giving out tokens at the checkouts which customers can use to vote for the community charity they want the store to support. Asda has been doing this for years by the way.

And today it was reported that Sainsbury’s are getting round the charity donation by replacing their usual thin bags with re-usable bags and using some of the 5p to cover their cost (which is allowed as the law only applies to single use bags).

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Being Virtuous can make you Fat

walking_with_shopping_bags_1600_wht_5497Researchers at Harvard and Duke Universities have found that using re-usable bags for your supermarket shopping can influence your shopping behaviour.

People with re-usable bags were not only more likely to buy organic food but also to stock up on junk food.

Grocery store shoppers who bring their own bag are more likely to purchase organic produce and other healthy foods. But those same shoppers often feel virtuous because they are acting in an environmentally responsible way. That feeling can easily persuade them that they should treat themselves to cookies or potato chips” said the authors of the study.

They examined loyalty cardholder data from which they could see when the shoppers had used their own bags. They were more likely to buy junk food on those occasions.

This is not the only example of when people reward themselves for virtuous behaviour. A recent study of people exercising while on a diet showed that they rewarded themselves by binge eating. It seems as if we have a rewards balance sheet where we allow ourselves an unhealthy but enjoyable treat when we have done something good.

I look forward to further research in this field. Would helping an old lady to cross the road or giving to charity make you pop into the fast food shop next door?