Massy may unintentionally have rocked the boat with its 26 April announcement that the supermarket planned to start charging for its plastic shopping bags. Days after the word got out there was talk on the radio and elsewhere of retaliatory boycotts. Many shoppers were of the view that Massy’s new attitude was a demonstration of greed with little to do with its advertised intention to push an environmentally friendly agenda. The sceptics questioned why the supermarket had not chosen to do away with plastic bags altogether in favour of paper or other biodegragradable options.
On Tuesday this week Martin Dorville, Massy Stores St Lucia’s managing director, and head of marketing Sariah Best-Joseph, presented a different scenario: come July 3, the charge for plastic bags will not be the rumoured 50 cents after all but 25 cents, which the company hopes will deter shoppers from purchasing the bags. The money collected from the sale of plastic bags will be placed in an Environment Fund to benefit environmental awareness, recycling, waste collection and repurposing projects.
During their initial media address, the company representatives insisted their hope was that shoppers would be encouraged to dump an old and counterproductive habit in favour of reusable shopping bags. As for the suggested other options, Dorville explained that those were not viable, since paper bags were not expected to hold the weight of groceries. Besides, they take more energy to manufacture. As for bio-degradable materials, Dorville offered this explanation: “Just because something is bio-degradable doesn’t mean that we should not curb our indiscriminate entry of those items into the environment. The fact is, we want to reduce the amount of waste going into the environment.” Moreover: “Even when they [plastic bags] end up in the landfill, the problem does not go away.”
Plastic bags are not the only environmentally hazardous products used by the supermarket chain. Its meats, meals and pastries come in styrofoam as well as plastic containers and bags.
Dorville’s response: “We are ramping up our efforts, in the absence of legislation, to curtail and eliminate the use of the styrofoam. It is legislated already in Guyana and in Saint Vincent, so we have the knowledge on how to get to that point a lot quicker. We are working assiduously on that project.”
Declared Ms. John: “There are areas where we will have to continue to provide those types of bags and the reason is to manage contamination as well as issues relating to hazardous material and waste around food. For example, someone may pick up a tray of raw meat, poultry or fish and there might be some seepage. We want to manage cross-contamination.”
The company’s representatives also announced other initiatives in the works to provide members of the public with the opportunities to obtain free, re-usable bags leading up to July. The intention is to eventually phase out altogether the use of plastic grocery bags.