Plastic bag 'buffet' at supermarket self-checkout counters

My Paper AsiaOne 14 Dec 15;

TAKING MORE THAN THEY NEED: Supermarket chains have been encouraging consumers to cut down on their use of plastic bags. But some shoppers observed by Lianhe Wanbao at self-checkout counters used several bags for single items. Others would even double- or triple-bag for groceries which were not exceptionally heavy.

SOME supermarket customers using self-checkout counters have been taking more plastic bags than they might need for their groceries.

Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao yesterday reported that it had received feedback about plastic bag wastage by supermarket customers.

Wanbao then visited several supermarkets and observed some 50 shoppers.

Most of the customers who used self-checkout counters would use several plastic bags, regardless of how many items they bought.

One customer, who gave her name only as Ms Lin, used two bags for her groceries. She said she lived a distance from the supermarket and was worried that the bottom of the bag would tear, so she added another.

"When the cashiers scan the items, they will usually add another bag," she said.

However, Wanbao noted that the cashiers at the traditional counters were observed to add an extra bag only when the groceries were exceptionally heavy.

Some shoppers used several bags just for a pack of vegetables or a bag of snacks.

One middle-aged man used two bags for one item but then decided that he needed a third bag.

Another customer, who gave her name only as Ms Shen, had one bag per item. She explained to Wanbao that she was buying groceries for someone else, so she took more bags.

Supermarket chains have come up with different strategies to encourage customers to use fewer plastic bags.

At FairPrice, customers who bring their own bags can get a daily rebate of 10 cents.

Staff at Sheng Siong, on the other hand, help pack groceries into bags for customers.

A Giant spokesman said that many regulars would bring their own shopping bags.

One Giant staff member said that staff will stop the occasional customer who grabs many plastic bags at one go.

A 2013 study by non-governmental organisation Singapore Environment Council (SEC) found that Singapore used nearly three billion plastic bags in 2011.

SEC executive director Edwin Seah said that although consumers have been repeatedly encouraged to cut down on their use of plastic bags, it will be futile if supermarkets do not limit the amount they distribute.

Using too many plastic bags has far-reaching effects on the environment, he said.

Plastic bag wastage is not the only issue facing self-checkout counters at supermarkets.

On Friday, police said 11 people were arrested for shop theft in the first week of this month at a supermarket in Tampines. The suspects were believed to have put unscanned items into plastic bags with scanned items.

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