Friday, February 29, 2008

Right result? Right reasons?

Yesterday, at the height of the Daily Mail/M&S 5p bag frenzy, I popped into a LIDL, a store proudly pointing out it was tackling the scourge of the bag by charging for them.

And, in a telling example of personal shopping choice I made a purchase: this cutter set.

Now how much was my decision based on the fact that I could see all the blades I would use? Hence the box in which they were contained was splayed open, and then popped in a blister pack.

Totally, and I don't fling this word about lightly, unnecessary. But certainly it, and my actions in being seduced (would a poster or image on the lid have worked to attract me as well?), are pretty much key to the whole issue.

While some small 'victories' may be scored in trying to cut down on waste and our addiction to buying more and more 'stuff', this little war on plastic bags rather conceals the fact that the last thing these noble manufacturers and retailers, and the media industry who serves them, want us to do is buy any less.

Hence we get bought off (ironically by paying more) with a bag levy, and perhaps get distracted from pondering any more about what we are buying in the first place.

Here's the latest press release that has popped into my in-box, which I re-print verbatim:

IKEA SAVES 100 MILLION PLASTIC BAGS SINCE 2006 In support of the Daily Mail's campaign to ban the use of all single-use disposable plastic bags, IKEA UK today announced that a total of 100 million plastic bags have been saved since first launching a 10p charge in June 2006 and then a complete phasing out of plastic bags in July 2007. In 2005 IKEA UK gave away 32 million bags. Laid out, they would stretch 19,200 kilometres, or the equivalent of a return journey from London to Tokyo. After a successful two year trial in its Edinburgh store, on World Environment Day in June 2006, IKEA UK announced it was to stop offering free plastic carrier bags to customers introducing a 10p charge for them.� All money raised by the charge of plastic bags was to be donated to the organisation �Community Forests�.� It was part of a three step initiative that included changing the material of standard plastic bags to a biodegradable material and encouraging customers to use reusable bags by reducing the cost of the iconic �big blue bag�. It was estimated that this would reduce plastic bag consumption in IKEA UK stores by 20 million to 12 million bags a year. However, pricing plastic bags at 10p saw a 95% reduction in use to just 1.6 million a year � much higher than ever expected. As a result IKEA UK took the decision that plastic bags were no longer needed and completely removed plastic bags from all stores throughout the UK in July 2007. Charlie Brown, IKEA UK Environment Manager, said: �'It�s fantastic to see other retailers taking such positive steps to minimise plastic bag usage. Our role as retailers is to help customers make small changes that will reduce their environmental impact. Together we have a huge opportunity to make a real difference.'� The phase out of single-use plastic bags follows far-reaching steps already taken by IKEA to reduce energy consumption, cut emissions and to source products from sustainable suppliers.

I must say I stumbled over 'today announcing' something they have been doing for a while, which just shows what the impact of the weight of the Daily Mail readership and M&S PR machine is; all sorts of guys are tripping overthemselves to be first to be second to tell people they were first. Hardly edifying.

And I still don't see how a 10p bag doesn't choke a turtle any more than a 5p one.

The only bit of sensible insight is buried away at the end (highlighted), and at least shows the potential value of this campaign, even though I think it has been orchestrated by the wrong folk in the wrong way for mostly all the wrong reasons. But maybe the end (still unsure on the impact of the alternatives being scattered about) result could yet be worth it. Maybe a few eggs need to be broken for this omelette.

But let's now see who they turn their sights on next, and in what way the mob is directed. Just so long as the enviROI ends up positive, and it's all not just for show and ratings and a short term feel-good for the chattering classes, at the expense of those less able to cope with impositions and costs.... or even the planet.

I just wonder how long the likes of the Daily Mail or M& S will stay true to the overall cause, though both look like riding a hell of a decent wave for now.

But I rather suspect that even if Al Gore invented a $100 wind turbine, if GM offered a free Humvee to every reader or BA a free flight to Hawaii, the paper's front page would look a tad different. And even if editorial did move on to the 'necessity' of cut flowers and New Zealand lamb (ignoring the debate that the carbon consequence of their rearing cancels out the food miles in the shipping vs. buying local), the ad department may have a few words to offer via their client feedback.

Interesting times. What we really need is more positives that serve the consumer process AND the environment. Now, where on earth might we find such a concept? Oh... say... a nice little website that advocates reuse, both from existing packs and, in future, designed-in?

Sadly, I could only open that pack above by destroying it. So no reuse ideas there. I will walk it round the plastics skip, but have litte faith that it will be recycled effectively. Which, at about the equivalent of 50 plastic bags in one shot, is the real concern I have.

No comments: