Plastic Fantastic

In which The Author is baffled by corporate policy (again)

A few days ago I called into my local branch of a well-known tax-dodging high street pharmacy to pick up my regular prescription. I’ve been a customer of that particular store for as long as I can remember, as well as visiting three branches in Cardiff from time to time. Even before the Welsh Government introduced a 5p charge on plastic bags (October 2011), the staff would always ask customers if they actually needed a bag with their shopping. It seemed like a sensible way to try and reduce waste.
Wales trailed a long way behind Ireland when it came to the plastic bag charge, but still set the tone for the rest of the UK. Meanwhile, some businesses were well ahead of the curve. In Waterstones, for example, we used to give five loyalty card points (in other words, 5p) to any customer who didn’t want a plastic bag. I’ve always said that when it comes to changing consumer behaviour, people respond better to the carrot than to the stick. Waterstones adopted a sensible approach, offering ‘bags for life’ at the till points as well. I very rarely have to pay for a plastic bag, as I’ve usually got a ‘bag for life’ with me. (Not the one from West Glamorgan Archives, though.)
Anyway, back to the chemist. Prescriptions were always made up by the duty pharmacist, and your medicines were put into a paper bag, regardless of whether you were collecting them at the time or picking up a regular order. I always found this a sensible idea, as paper bags can be recycled and plastic bags usually aren’t. (In some cases they can be, but they usually aren’t.)
The company policy has changed very recently. Instead of receiving my medicine in a paper bag, it was sealed in a plastic bag. I mentioned this to the lady behind the counter. She explained that repeat prescriptions are now made up at a site in Nottingham, and then distributed to the various branches across the UK.
This change happened in the very same month that England introduced a charge for plastic bags (lagging behind the rest of the UK). To my mind, it’s contrary to common sense for a national company to start supplying more plastic bags when most retailers – both large and small – are trying to discourage customers from using them. As I’ve asked at several points in this blog, is it me?
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