The Online Shopping Conundrum

I mentioned in a recent post that one of the problems in avoiding single-use plastic bags was the fact that we usually order our grocery shopping online and have it delivered. Ilka usually does this – who am I kidding, Ilka always does this, so I’m not sure if it’s possible to tell Sainsbury’s or Ocado ‘no plastic bags please’, but I doubt it. In their favour, both of these organisations offer to recycle the plastic bags they give you, but you have to keep the bags somewhere and give them back to the driver next time you have a delivery. We invariably seem to forget to do this. Here’s what Ocado and Sainsbury’s say about recycling bags.
I always mention the fact that I’m trying to live without plastic bags for a year when I’m refusing to take one, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the postive reactions I’ve had. One local shopkeeper even bemoaned the fact that some kids even ask for a plastic bag when they’ve only bought one item and really don’t need one. When I refused a bag at Cafe Soho the other day, I got into a conversation with the guy who runs it about the problem of the bags the online shopping comes in. We agreed that their packing is awful – they sometimes put as few as one or two items in a bag, for starters – and I told him I was struggling to come up with some better ideas to suggest to the retailers. After all, it wouldn’t be right to say “Don’t use plastic bags” without offering an alternative solution. I had started thinking along the lines of giving people their shopping in the plastic crates they use to bring it to the door in – but then one would have to store them and I can see that being an issue. Mark came up with a much better idea – cardboard boxes, and where bags are necessary, paper bags. Much easier to recycle all round. Make the cardboard boxes foldable, and they can be re-used for shopping. Nice one, Mark – I’m going to write to Ocado, Sainsbury’s and in all likelihood the other online grocery retailers and suggest this. I’ll post their replies when I get them.
We do have another use for these bags, though – we use them as bin liners. The Ocado ones are particularly good for this. Ironically if they stop using them for deliveries we might have to start buying bin liners. Hmmmm.

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8 Responses to “The Online Shopping Conundrum”

  1. Ulrik Poulsen Says:

    We do our online grocery shopping with Tesco. They have a ‘no bags, please’ option, and if you tick it you get ‘green points’. Assuming you would normally use 10 bags per week, this would amount to 500 points per year, which, if you spend the points the right way, could equal £20.

  2. Giles McCormick Smith Says:

    Excellent! Do you use it? How does it work?
    I have ethical problems with Tesco that I won’t bore you with here, but the bagless option might counter them.
    Thanks for the tip.

  3. JaneJaneJaneJane Says:

    We just make them wait while we take the stuff out and give the bags straight back. It doesn’t take long and it means you get a look at your shopping.

  4. Giles McCormick Smith Says:

    Another good idea. I’d rather get rid of the need for bags altogether though, so the Tesco bagless route would be my favourite. They help you unpack it too, apparantly. Just need to get Ocado / Sainsbury’s / all the others to follow suit. Have emailed Ocado, Sainsbury’s up next…

  5. andrew webster Says:

    Its all about the nudge factor – I think Tescos have the right idea although there is a ban on Tesco shopping in the Webster Household so cant take advantage of being nudged in that direction ….

    Just reading the Thaler & Sunstein book “nudge” at the moment – its well worth a look



  6. Giles McCormick Smith Says:

    I’m nudging!
    The book sounds interesting, will check it out.

  7. Ilka Says:

    Well, if I may say something….
    We do actually use them up as bin liners (which is the main reason why I insist on a tiny bin). And if we don’t use them up or have to many I store them in the airing cupboard and give them bag to the driver or put them in the recycling, since the recycling man said that’s ok too. I do think that’s fair enogh unless you want to go as far as not having bags in bins, which is what it used to be like not so long ago. Happy bin washing darling.

  8. Giles McCormick Smith Says:

    Er, yes. Maybe I should have talked to you before I put that post up…

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