Plastic Campaign - Planning next steps

Plastic Campaign - Planning next steps - open discussion session
Maureen Macmillan, Director Moray Firth Partnership

Maureen: Aim – to get commitment to roll out a MF campaign.

Deb Benham/DSP: Wants to make Forres plastic bag free and is initiating a group. Would like to be kept in contact for this campaign.

Q: Irina Birnie/Aberdeenshire Council: If you are charging for compostable bags, why hang onto the other?
A: Michael Boylan (MB): We need to educate ourselves and our customers, this isn’t going to happen overnight – we want to phase it in. Encouraging customers to re-use bags and bring their own isn’t having a detrimental affect on business. Removing the option altogether at this stage would put us at a disadvantage against our competitors and we would lose customers.

Q: Ben Leyshon: Could you charge for the ‘free’ bags and give away the compostable ones instead? What would be the price difference?
A: MB: Don’t know – would need to find out.

Irina Birnie: By keeping the free bag you are not going break the habit, just remove the free option.

Q: Pollard/Holm Community Council: Of the £850,000 savings from free bags not issued, what proportion is re-invested?
A: MB: Some has been passed to customer through savings – didn’t say how much.

Peter MacDonald/FoMFD: At a launch for the giveaway of free eco-bags, the co-op released helium balloons…….
MB: Unfortunate. We were later advised of the problems of balloons and is now taking steps to avoid this in future.

Someone from the floor asked what Tescos plans were. Maureen MacMillan invited the Tesco reps to speak.

Doug Wilson/Tesco Corporate Affairs Manager: Want to offer customer incentives to reduce and reuse i.e. by offering green club card points. One billion green points so far. Focus on awareness raising and lifestyle changing (habit).

In Berwick they trialled the removal of the free bag from the check out area – well received. If a town wishes to become plastic bag free we will remove the bags from the check out – we will not remove the option if the customer insists.

Lizbeth Collie/RoWAN: in Ullapool the traders were uncomfortable charging the customers for bags, they felt it would be perceived as just another charge and profit for the store. Agreed to make donations to charity instead which was well received.

Alistair Tough/Tough Plastics: The MCS presentation has been selective with it’s figures. The Government target is a reduction by 25% of all carriers. I fail to see how Tescos and others can be blamed for their bags ending up in the environment when land reclamation from landfill releases plastics. These studies often quoted are all international and not specific to the UK. The evidence and statistics for plastic bags in marine animals stomachs are not backed up and the proportion of plastic bags ingested is minimal when compared to all the other ingested plastic items.
We need to be reducing the amount of plastic in bags and encouraging re-use.

Bill Stobo/Kyle of Sutherland Heritage: There is no facility for collecting plastic. Unless the Council improves and provides recycling facilities for plastic it will not reduce. In California a litter fire will cause 000’s of dollars of damage. It’s not just plastic bags, it all plastics that are the issue, industrial plastic, crisp packets and sweet wrappers. There are no litter picks undertaken by the Council anymore.

Delegate from FOMFD: Wind deposits plastic carrier bags and other light litter, you can see it caught in the barbed wire fence and areas where there is no municipal litter picking/ verge clearance. Plastics a global problem – if we start with the plastic carrier bag it’s something that we all use, every day, something we can live without and something that we can actively do to help alleviate the problem.

Q: John Dunthorne: I recycle my plastic carriers in the plastic bag bins at Tescos. Where does it go and what does it become?
A: Doug Wilson: All Tescos plastic and cardboard recycling goes to our national depot in Livingston for processing. The plastic carriers will be recycled to produce bags and other items such as plastic trays for manufacturing and transport.
A: Michael Boylan: Our own plastic is sent to a central depot for recycling and we are looking at ways of putting more recycling facilities in our stores as part of our trial.

Alistair Tough: Would like to raise the point that plastic carriers that have been chemically altered to enhance degradation are NOT recyclable and if these bags enter the recycling stream it can render the whole process useless and end up in landfill.

Q: Pollard/Holm CC: Tesco on-line deliver groceries in green trays but items are packed into the plastic bags.
A: Doug Wilson: You can select not to have any plastic carriers with your order.

Q: Alice Pope/WDCS: If you are encouraging customers to reduce, do you also ask manufacturers and suppliers to reduce plastics and packaging?
A: DW: Yes, manufacturers for Tescos are challenged to reduce packaging. Continue to improve process. For example, large bottles of drinks now delivered in cages on pallets instead of packs of six on a cardboard tray wrapped in plastic.

Alistair Tough/Tough Plastics: Can I raise another issue that some of these green alternatives are just not ethical – I have been to India/Java and seen inside jute factories where these eco-shoppers are made. Dreadful conditions, filthy product and exploitive child labour.

Peter MacDonald/FoMFD: Fairtrade options. People must start acting responsibly.

Stewart Campbell/Alness Initiative: I litter pick every weekend – my bugbear is the polystyrene chip trays and plastic forks. I’m a man and I’m not afraid to use my cotton bag at the shops!

Susan Carstairs/SEPA: There is evidently extreme public opinion. There isn’t clear research on the impact of plastic in marine environment and there is huge research capacity for this area (MF). Switching from plastic to paper causes more pollution but switch from bag to long life re-usable bag is much better. This needs active legislation and must come from the Government to make a zero waste commitment. MFP are well placed to source funding for research and take forward a campaign that SEPA Area Waste Team would actively support and promote.

Sue Edwards/Seawatch Foundation: Downloaded a pattern from the internet for how to make your own shopping bags from an old pair of curtains.

Pollard/Holm CC: Perhaps the only way is the draconian measure akin to the smoking ban/

Maureen MacMillan drew the session to a close as again there were more questions than time allowed. To conclude, roles for the MFP include:
1. Research on the impacts of plastic carrier bags in the (marine) environment.
2. Grants information – Co-op community grants, MFP CGS, Increase.
3. Publicise local initiatives – through newsletter, on MFP web site?
4. Help provide information to retailers on well sourced alternatives.
5. Lobby the local government/national government?

DSP: Dolphin Space Programme
FoMFD: Friends of the Moray Firth Dolphins
RoWAN: Ross-Shire Waste Action Network
SEPA: Scottish Environment Protection Agency
MCS: Marine Conservation Society
WDCS: Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society