The Reader: Supermarkets must act now on plastic waste

Campaigners say there is public support for a substantial hike in the plastic bag charge: DDP/AFP via Getty Images

Greenpeace is calling for higher charges on plastic and I agree. When the 5p bag charge was introduced in 2015 we began to take a step forward in the battle against plastic, but the news that 1.5 billion “bags for life” were sold last year shows us how much further we need to go.

Now is the time for action. Yes, a higher charge will be painful — but in some ways the pain is the point, as it is what will drive behaviour change. And at the moment there is a growing desire for change among consumers, so I firmly believe they will welcome the initiative. Supermarkets must act too. Brands have been moving away from plastic ever since the shocking TV images of Blue Planet II, but retailers have, on the whole, been slow to act. Plastic still litters the aisles. A rise in the bag charge must be accompanied by tangible actions by supermarkets to cut down plastic use.

Consumers want action and those retailers who are bold and progressive will win out.
Giles Gibbons, CEO, Good Business

Editor's reply

Dear Giles
I’m sure that higher-priced plastic bags could help to further reduce their use but I think your call for supermarkets to do more in this area is even stronger and avoids pushing responsibility for achieving change solely on to the consumer.

That would be wrong, because retailers, who often make much of their supposed corporate responsibility, could do far more to cut plastic use. Some, such as Sainsbury’s — which has stopped providing plastic bags for loose fruit and veg — are making progress.

But in most other retailers, plastic shrink-wrapping, bags and excessive packaging remain too prevalent.

Then there’s the hideously wasteful use of plastic in online deliveries.

I was infuriated recently by the splurge of unnecessary plastic bags in my Waitrose delivery. Who too hasn’t received a superfluous sea of bubble wrap in a box sent to their home? It’s time for supermarkets and other retailers to take their duty to the planet more seriously.
Martin Bentham, Home Affairs Editor

Private schools are not charities​

George Smith [The Reader, November 29] bemoans the Labour Party’s pledge to withdraw charitable status from private schools. The fact is that most of these schools are selective, and their intake very restricted. All available money should go to state schools, which are open to every child.

He also mentions that many overseas students attend private schools. How can it be that these wealthy families benefit from a tax concession (through the schools’ charitable status) that was originally intended for the education of poor pupils, when our state schools are suffering from inadequate funding? This unjust anomaly should be rectified.
Nicola Brooker

Play Secret Santa and help a child

This year we are having a Secret Santa in the office but with a difference: the gift (in the form of a toy our younger selves might have liked to receive) will go to the Salvation Army to be given to a child at Christmas. Child poverty is a very real problem in many inner-city areas and a little compassion at this time of year can go a long way. Please, if you are doing a Secret Santa, think of the children who might not otherwise receive a present at Christmas.
Mark Stewart

Johnson’s lesson on bravery​

A kitchen porter called Mohammed and a Polish chef called Łukasz risked their lives to confront the London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan.

The attack happened during Mohammed’s lunch break and after the traumatic events he returned to work washing dishes at a nearby bar, telling none of his colleagues about his heroism.

Mohammed and Łukasz are working-class men. Boris Johnson, a man who runs from the prospect of an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, has written that working-class men are “likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless and hopeless”.
Sasha Simic

It will not have gone unnoticed by Londoners that one of the brave souls who rushed to disarm Usman Khan is a migrant to these shores.Boris Johnson tried to gain political currency from the attack by saying “British values will prevail” — but surely what all those involved showed was common humanity, a quality not confined to British folk.
Ann Nee