The supermarket chain Morrisons has plans to replace reusable plastic bags in its stores, and has commenced the trialling of paper alternatives.

The trials began in August 2020 in select stores across the United Kingdom, including the likes of Abergavenny, Yorkshire, Bristol, Paisley and Cambridgeshire. 

The trials consisted of Morrisons replacing its original plastic bags with strong paper bags. The bags are able to carry up to 16kg — as much as their plastic counterparts.

The chief executive of Morrisons, David Potts, said: “We believe customers are ready to stop using plastic carrier bags as they want to reduce the amount of plastic they have in their lives and keep it out of the environment.”

If customers are happy with the new paper bags, the supermarket chain will be rolling them out across all 494 stores around the country, hopefully retiring plastic bags for good. 

The replacement would save up to 90 million plastic bags (3,510 tonnes of plastic) being used each year, dramatically reducing the damage to the environment.

Morrisons is not the only supermarket chain trying to cut down the use of plastics. Tesco and Sainsbury’s have both removed the majority of plastic bags from their tills, but continue to provide bags for life, with both defending the decision.

Tesco said its bags were made from 100% recycled and fully recyclable plastic, taking this further by removing plastic bags from its online shopping service following a successful trial two years ago. 

Sainsbury’s also began trialling a similar system in bagless deliveries — a trial which was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year. 

Following Morrisons’ bold move, the retailer Waitrose also said it was planning its own trial to remove plastic bags for life, wanting to remove 40 million bags from circulation. In 2019 Waitrose replaced its single-use carrier bags for loose fruit and vegetables with a home-compostable alternative.

In 2014, environmental department Defra recorded that 7.6 billion bags were handed out in England — around 140 bags per person a year. Since then, the number of bags distributed has dropped by 80%.

Plastic pollution continues to be a major issue surrounding the United Kingdom but thankfully more positive things are being done to start tackling the issue. 

In 2020, single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers were banned in England in a bid to help eliminate plastic pollution.

Supermarkets turning to environmentally-friendly paper bags is definitely a step in the right direction.