Morrisons tests customer appetite for plastic-free shopping in paper bag trial

Supermarket giant Morrisons has this week launched a trial of US-style paper grocery bags, in a bid to gauge consumer attitudes to plastic-free options at the checkout.

The trial will run across eight of Morrisons' stores, until April

The trial will run across eight of Morrisons' stores, until April

During the three-month trial, which will cover eight Morrisons stores, customers who do not bring their own bag will be offered the choice of a reusable and recyclable paper bag for 20p, or a reusable plastic bag for 15p.

The move comes after a ban on single-use, 5p carrier bags last year led to a 25% decrease in the number of bags sold by the chain.

It also comes as Morrisons customers are increasingly asking for plastic-free bags at the checkout, according to the firm’s group customer service and marketing director Andy Atkinson.

“These new paper bags do exactly the same job as standard plastic carrier bags,” Atkinson said.

“They are tough, reusable and can help keep a large amount of plastic out of the environment.”

The trial will run until April at the Morrisons stores in Camden and Wood Green in London; Skipton, Hunslet and Yeadon in Yorkshire; Erskine in Scotland; Abergavenny in Wales and Gibraltar.

Depending on the plastic reduction and behaviour change results achieved, Morrisons may either make the paper bag a permanent offering in these stores or roll the scheme out more widely.

It’s in the bag

The launch of the trial follows on from Morrisons’ decision last year to stop offering single-use plastic bags in its fruit and vegetable aisles, in a bid to cut its plastic output by 150 million bags each year. It has also removed plastic bags from its range of fresh flowers, replacing them with paper alternatives. 

With the wave of consumer demand for action plastic pollution showing no sign of slowing down – and given that the introduction of the 5p bag charge led to a reduction of up to 30% in plastic bags found in the seas around Britain - Morrisons is one of many supermarket chains to have bolstered its plastic bag actions in recent times.  

The likes of Asda, Tesco and Waitrose & Partners have all committed to remove single-use plastic bags from their stores entirely to further incentivise customers to bring their own, for example, while frozen food chain Iceland is also trailing paper alternatives.

In produce aisles, Marks and Spencer (M&S) this month joined Morrisons in removing plastic produce bags from its fruit and vegetable aisles. It is also trialling plastic-free produce aisles with no ‘best-before’ dates at its Tolworth store in Surbiton, to find out whether customers prefer a traditional ‘greengrocer’ sales model.

Consumer appetite

Such moves come amid a string of research suggesting the general public are fully on board with the need for retailers to tackle plastic packaging waste.

One survey of 5,000 consumers last spring, for example, found that 80% would endorse a supermarket’s move to go plastic-free, while 91% would be more likely to encourage friends and family to shop there as a result of such a pledge.

More recently, a similar study of 7,000 UK shoppers found that that 92% would prefer to buy a plastic-free unit of their favourite product than one housed in plastic, with more than one-third (36%) having already begun boycotting certain brands over packaging sustainability concerns.

edie recently rounded up the actions taken to minimise plastic waste by the UK's 'big seven' supermarkets: Asda, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-op, Tesco and Waitrose. You can read that article in full here

Sarah George 


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