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Is switching to paper shopping bags a step ahead?

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As retail chains ditch plastic bags, city residents make do with eco-friendly alternatives while shopping for Diwali

Plastic, which was once hailed as a breakthrough invention, has turned into the biggest health hazard for the planet and its myriad residents. No wonder, millions across the world, including teenaged climate activist Greta Thunberg, are raising war cries against the scourge. In India, various states have been imposing bans on the use of plastic to varied degrees, with the latest call to ban single-use plastic coming straight from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In such a
scenario, are the shoppers and stores in Kolkata going eco-friendly? CT spoke to a few retail chains to gauge how well they are adapting to the change this Diwali.

Mall outlets making the switch

Walk by any mall in Kolkata, and you see happy shoppers carrying their festival haul out in polythene carry bags. But given the current scenario, some retail chains have introduced paper bags instead. “We made the shift a couple of months back and the customer response has been good. It’s not that many of them are extremely caring about the environment, but they are cooperating,” said the manager of a fashion store in a south Kolkata mall.

When asked why the question of cooperation arises, a store manager of another retail unit said it’s not a question of money, but of convenience. “Apart from the fact that paper bags don’t harm the environment like plastics do, they are not easy to manage when the load is high. The usual complaint is that the bags often tear. Of course, there are roughly 10% customers who are happy to use paper bags,” he said.

Conscious buyers help the cause

While most people are yet to wake up to the implications of using plastic, others have been aware for quite a while now. This awareness usually stems from their professions. “I used to teach at South Point School. And for me, making everyone conscious of their choices and how it may affect the environment is extremely important. Since I took students for camping and trekking a lot, I tried my best to make them imbibe these values. This is a wonderful initiative by the retailers. As for me, I’ve been carrying along a cloth bag every time I go shopping for quite a while now,” said Kabita Banerjee, a shopper we met at a south Kolkata mall.

Going green at any cost

For many, the debate is not restricted to whether they are carrying plastic bags or the paper ones. Their concern is why stores charge money for the bags. “Most customers are eager to know whether we are charging money for carry bags or not. They want free bags — be it paper or plastic. That there has been a change of policy and we no longer have the store logo on the bags is also not their concern. It’s only the money that matters,” a store manager told us.

But some shoppers do care for the environment and try to do their bit. “I am a member of a club that has taken the initiative to curb plastic use in our daily lives from October 2. I completely relate to the concern. The price of bags has never been an issue,” said Simi Ganguly, a shopper.

However, some stores are yet to adapt to the change. “We are awaiting a change in our policies. But I wouldn’t know if that will make much of a difference. The rule of charging money for plastic carry bags was introduced to curb their use, but evidently, it failed to make a difference,” said a shop’s floor manager.


Source: Times of India

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