While the major contributing factor to the drop is unquestionably an economic one (consumers don’t want to have to pay for something they can readily provide themselves) there are certain notable environmental implications. As the average consumer’s awareness of the impact of these products grew, so too did the issue’s prevalence in the media.
In the grand scheme of things, it was this mutual-knowledge that resulted in the introduction of the levy in the first place. Over the past decade, consumers, producers and authorities have devoted time to really focus on the issue of environmental sustainability. The idea that something as simple as a small charge on bags should result in such a widespread change in attitudes is something that needs to be considered by any professional that engages with packaging products at any stage.
An eye for sustainability
To give some context to the extent of the reduction, we can look at the seven main UK retailers - Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer’s, Waitrose, WM Morrison and The Co-operative Group. Throughout the whole of 2014 these retailers distributed 7.6 billion carrier bags. Over the period of 5th October 2015 (the date of the introduction) to 6th April 2016 only 1.1 billion had been issued by major retailers.
Perhaps we should re-iterate the economic factor to consumer’s reaction to the 5p charge before we continue. The majority of consumers will have stopped using single-use carrier bags because doing so benefited them - not because it benefited the environment. The point that we should engage on here is awareness.
It was a widespread awareness that caused the change to be introduced back in October last year. This knowledge was then reiterated every time a consumer was forced to purchase a carrier bag. This effect results in a shared understanding by consumers about why they should engage with sustainable options where packaging or transporting products is concerned.
An understanding that promotes a willingness to engage with sustainable options
The 5p carrier bag charge has resulted in the general public being more willing to engage with sustainable packaging options. As a result, producers should take the time to analyse their own packaging solutions to make sure they benefit all parties. Consumers are more savvy about environmental issues than they were in the past, and that means they are likely to want to see evidence of the companies they engage with having the same understanding.
Opting for sustainable packaging options often works out to be far more beneficial. Ensuring you don’t create too much waste pays off both economically - and from a marketing perspective, showing that you have a clear understanding of the environmental implications of all aspects of product delivery can be a big draw for new customers.