July 18, 2018, 8:15 pm
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Why do supermarkets charge for plastic bags?

WHEN I complained about the removal of water stations where customers can have free water in SM Food Courts, another issue was raised by UP Professor Roland Simbulan about mall giant SM: plastic bags being sold in supermarkets.

Simbulan said: “The SM Supermarkets have actually made more money out of the ban on the use of plastic bags. They have been selling plastic bags to customers for two pesos each, whereas before the ban on plastic bags, these were given free to customers. We cannot also say that Robinson’s supermarkets are any better for they have also been selling plastic bags.”

Simbulan’s comment generated a number of reactions which simply shows that taking care of our environment which is being subjected to so much abuse (disposal of plastic products has become a major problem) is an emotional issue.

Here are some of the letters I got:

Janvic Mateo: On Prof. Simbulan’s complaint regarding sale of plastic bags, if it happens in Quezon City, this is because of a local ordinance on plastic regulation. The entire collection for plastic bags should be turned over to the city government to fund environment projects.”

Yes, I think Prof. Simbulan’s experience is with SM supermarkets in Quezon City. I’m more familiar with Las Piñas SM outlets where they mostly use paper bags.

Along this line, Ianne Jean wrote that SM is not alone in charging plastic bags to supermarket customers. She wrote: “I noticed in the end part of your article, a resource person also mentioned plastic bags (being sold) at two pesos. I asked Landmark (Trinoma) about this and I was told the two pesos would go in full to an office in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. May you also release an article on this. Is this even true?

Liezl Camacho, who is based in the United Kingdom, also wrote:

“I am wondering if there’s any way that you could convey my message to Prof. Simbulan that the practice of SM Supermarkets of selling plastic bags needs to be examined from different perspective. I think it would be interesting to connect that to consumers’ behavior in using plastic. Can you do a study on this?

“I live in the UK, and I am yet to experience being given plastic bag for free. Here, if you need to use a plastic bag and you don’t have your own, you will have to pay them for 5p for a small one (equivalent to Php 3.35 each at current exchange). Sure the supermarkets are making profits, but what’s interesting is that the practice of making consumers pay for the plastic bag has reduced plastic reduction in England. (See: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/30/england-plastic-bag-...)

“Thus, going back to that practice in SM of selling bags, I would like to believe that this is part of their CRS’s effort to reduce plastics with the hope that consumers share responsibility by learning to reuse bags, or better yet, form the habit of bringing their own bags to shop. We do this a lot here in England, and people don’t complain. How about raising consciousness to Filipino consumers about forming the habit of carrying their own bags? I do this even in the Philippines. I even refuse plastic bags (even if they’re given free) most of the time especially when items come in small quantities and can be carried by my two hands.

“Hope you could write more to encourage consumers to change consumer behavior. We all need to do our share at some point.

“Just some thoughts, and thank you for sharing yours.”

SM has explained that primarily it had something to do with sanitation that they removed water stations in their Food Courts (http://www.malaya.com.ph/business-news/opinion/sm-explains-pullout-water...) but we still got some letters about the issue which also shows that it is an important concern to many.

Here’s one from Hannah Grace Seguenza: “I’m just really curious and very interested. I don’t expect you to reply but I still want to give it a try.

“A few minutes ago, I just read your article regarding SM removing their water drinking stations.

“Do you agree that they did it just so they can gain more profit by forcing people to buy their SM water bottle products? The one and only water bottle brand you can see at SM by the way.

“And do you also agree that they’re advertising their water bottle in a sense that once you buy, it’ll benefit some charities yet the truth behind it, as most people assume, is that they’re really the ones who are benefiting?

“Do you also agree that SM’s killing small scale businesses?

“Do you have something against SM? Do you agree with some people that they keep on building business establishments just for the sake of their own wealth and doesn’t really give a crap about Filipino people?”

Hannah, I have nothing personal against SM. In fact, I’m a regular SM customer. I just want fair service from them.


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