Shopping for a way to save the planet

ECO-conscious shoppers in Camden Town picked up free cotton carrier bags last week

Josie Hinton

ECO-conscious shoppers in Camden Town picked up free cotton carrier bags last week.

Camden Council gave out the bags as part of Recycle for London's Plastic Bag Free Day on Friday.

At Marks and Spencer on Camden High Street, shoppers were given the reusable bags free of charge to encourage them not to use plastic and to make recycling a part of their everyday lives.

The move certainly went down well with people popping out to the shops. Housewife Lucinda Gresswell, 45, from Camden Town said: "I think it's a brilliant idea handing out bags at a supermarket where there are loads of plastic bags available, as it encourages people to think about the alternatives.

"I usually take my own bags with me but it's easy to forget. In France and Switzerland you have to pay for plastic bags so you soon learn not to forget your own shopping bag."

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She added that the bags are stylish and much easier to carry than plastic bags, as they have long shoulder straps.

Vicky Saunders, 32, a civil servant from Camden Town, said: "I think what the council is doing is great.

"I always take my own shopping bags but I think the retailers themselves need to take more responsibility and stop giving out plastic bags.

"The initiative today means that people get cotton bags for free, which is a great way to encourage greener habits. You can't always rely on people going the extra mile, it has to be made easier and cheaper for shoppers."

And Margaret Moran, a 60-year-old carer from Somers Town, left the shop looking delighted. She said: "It's great for me as I have to push a wheelchair when I go out shopping and it's very difficult to hang plastic bags on the back.

"These bags have long straps which hang over the chair extremely well. I've taken two today, which I will definitely use again."

Camden's recycling adviser Andrea Vasquez-Lynch, one of the officers handing out the bags, said people were very positive about recycling and were keen to find out other ways to include it in their daily lives.

"There are 20 million bags given out in London every week, which uses landfill space and is harmful to the environment," she said.

"People see the value of recycling and are keen to get involved so the response today has been really positive."

The Plastic Bag Free Day was organised after it emerged that a staggering 13 billion plastic bags are used by British shoppers each year. The bags use up oil and landfill space, and can kill marine wildlife.

Cllr Mike Greene, Camden's environment chief, said: "It's simply not sustainable to keep throwing away millions of plastic bags each year. We want people to change their everyday habit of using plastic bags and opt for a reusable bag.

"I hope this awareness-raising event will encourage everyone in the borough to think about the impact of the waste they create and say no to plastic bags.

"As well as handing out free reusable bags, the council had a stall offering recycling and waste minimisation advice, including information on reducing junk mail and recycling batteries."