Boots switches to paper bags across UK stores

Boots has become the first UK national pharmacy, health and beauty retailer to phase-out single-use plastic bags, having today (24 June) switched to brown paper bags.

Boots switches to paper bags across UK stores

Water-based inks are also used so that the bags can be recycled at home 

The brown paper bags will replace plastic variants in 53 UK stores from today, with a full rollout to all 2,485 stores to be completed in early 2020. Boots claim that the switch will remove more than 900 tonnes of plastics from store operations annually.

Boots UK’s managing director and senior vice-president Seb James said: “This year, we are transforming Boots as we celebrate 170 years, and the move to unbleached paper bags is another pivotal moment in that journey. There is no doubt that our customers expect us to act and this change signifies a huge step away from our reliance on plastic.”

The new bags are made from unbleached, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified recycled brown paper. Water-based inks are also used so that the bags can be recycled at home. The bags are sourced and manufactured in the UK and display the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) standard for the benefit of consumers.

Consumers can purchase small, medium or large paper bags for 5p, 7p or 10p, with all profits donated to charity partner BBC Children in Need.

Consumer demand

Boots cited the impact of shows like Blue Planet in driving more awareness on single-use plastics, with research noting that there could be more plastics in the ocean by weight than fish by 2050. Research of 6,000 Boots customers found that 92% are concerned about the number of plastics bags in circulation.

The findings echo similar research from  Viridor, which last year published a survey of more than 1,800 members of the UK public on attitudes towards plastics recycling.

The survey found that less than half (45%) were willing to pay additional tax on non-recyclable plastics – despite an increased rate of tax on hard-to-recycle materials receiving “noteworthy public support” during a three-month consultation.

The survey also noted that 51% of the UK public feel businesses are responsible for recycling, but less than 10% trust businesses to ensure that waste can be recycled efficiently.

Earlier this year, Boots opticians teamed up with consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson and recycling firm TerraCycle to launch the first UK-wide recycling scheme for contact lenses and their packaging.

TerraCycle has developed a method of recycling the lenses and their blister packs, which are often not collected by local authorities due to a lack of infrastructure that can process them. 

In order to collect a consistent stream of end-of-life products and packaging for recycling, Johnson & Johnson has partnered with pharmacy giant Boots to launch 615 in-store waste collection points at its optician branches. A further 35 collection points have been set up by independent opticians, with the total number of facilities expected to surpass 1,000 by the end of 2019.

Matt Mace

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