Shopping chain SPAR recently committed to putting itself on the sustainability map, after the successful launch of their #RethinkTheBag campaign. The campaign is aimed at changing the psyche of its consumers, by pushing them away from relying on the convenience of plastic shopping bags.
Although SPAR admits that the initiative will not fix the planet overnight, it believes that this is an essential first step in trying to improve the state of our planet.
The new SPAR bags come in three different forms, all with different prices. One is a strong paper bag with handles, and will serve as a constant, cost-effective alternative to using plastic bags. There is also a woven shopping bag made from polypropylene, and a ‘taxi shopping bag’, which is a large bag made from between 80% to 100% recycled materials.
All three bags can be reused multiple times, with the brown paper bag having the ability to soak up limited amounts of liquid, and being capable of carrying up to 12kg.
SPAR in the Eastern Cape launched a similar initiative in April, after realising that plastic pollution has reached a point where something tangible needed to be done. In response to this, they allowed shoppers to swap their plastic bags for paper ones for two days.
The shopping chain realises that changing consumers’ ways is difficult to master in a short space of time, which is why the initiative will also have incentives in the form of SPAR rewards. Brown paper bags will earn shoppers a R1 reward, and woven or taxi bags R5. There will also be various decreases in the prices of bags at the till, provided the shopper shows their commitment by using or purchasing paper bags.
The underlying sentiment throughout the initiative is that ‘nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute the planet for thousands of years’.
Environmental scientist and presenter Simon Gear was a perfect fit as a guest speaker at SPAR’s campaign launch. He pointed out that there are many things that SPAR can and cannot change.
Things it cannot change include supplier ethics, to a large extent. But, consumer behaviour through education and discourse is definitely something SPAR can change. Gear suggests that the best action at this point in time is, in fact, to take the choice of using either plastic or paper shopping bags away completely.
With this in mind, consumers will not be inconvenienced – paper bags are still strong, they are recyclable, and a healthy alternative to the current plastic bags that are suffocating the planet.