MSYS meets green issues

You will note the picture of a shopping bag. It’s not particularly beautiful or state of the art – but it is fashionable. Fashionable? For the first time (probably ever) the independent sector can get into the “must have” fashion game with a recyclable shopping bag which consumers want.

MSYS chairman Alan Toft (pictured above) says wholesalers supply billions of plastic shopping bags to their customers every year – bags, which could soon become illegal in London if the joined up boroughs environmental action group gets its way.

No doubt other local authorities which are anxious to show their green credentials will follow suit – the public is ahead of the politicians on this issue if dinner party table talk and pub chat is anything to go by.

The bag pictured here is just an idea. There will be wholesalers who are planning to issue their own recyclable shopping bags bearing their own dedicated logo and an appropriate message to the consumer. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But there may be wholesalers who believe a generic recyclable bag with a message which says something about the person who is carrying it rather than the shop may be the way ahead. After all, the number of non-affiliated independent c-stores, newsagents and rural shops in the country outnumbers those retailers working under a symbol facia. As the plastic bag issue develops into a national movement, how will they engage with it?

Killer facts: More than 17 billion plastic carrier bags are given away every year – an average of 290 for every person in the UK. These add around 100,000 tonnes to landfill every year – after being used for an average of 12 minutes before being discarded.

Your carbon footprint is also becoming an issue which sooner or later will impact on the consumer in terms of penalties for gas guzzlers and energy wasters.

But local shops within walking distance of most of their customers are on a winner here. Walk And Shop Please (WASP) could be the new green slogan for local shops which will resonate with the burgeoning consumer lobby, which is very serious about the matter.

Car use produces 20.3% of the total annual carbon footprint of the average individual in the UK, according to the Institute for European Environment Policy which is calling for policies which encourage people to walk to local shops.

For NIW in 2008, which begins on Monday, June 2, a big national WASP day is being planned for Wednesday, June 4. Alan Toft, chairman of MSYS, told ProWholesaler: “If 50,000 independent retailers of all types supported WASP by alerting the consumer to Walk On Wednesday by posters and word of mouth, supporting our PR, this could be a big profile builder for wholesalers’ customers.”



Everyone has now heard of Modbury, the small picturesque town in Devon where traders joined together to ban plastic carrier bags. The initiative came from the town’s retailers, judging the mood of their customers.

Instead, shops are selling organic Fairtrade cotton bags and cheaper paper and cornstarch bags which, unlike plastic bags, are biodegradable.

The inspiration came from Rebecca Hosking, a BBC camerawoman who lives in Modbury, after she worked on a film which revealed that waste plastic bags kill 100,000 whales, seals, turtles and birds every year.

Her campaign against the plastic plague gains more recruits every day.

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