Boots joins high street plastic bag exodus - but is paper the right replacement?

Retail giant Boots has vowed to ditch plastic bags in all its stores by next year, replacing them with paper ones.

The company said 53 stores will lose plastic bags at checkouts from Monday, with all 2,485 sites only offering customers paper bags from early next year.

However, Boots will continue to charge customers for the new unbleached brown bags, despite them not falling under the plastic bag tax.

The decision means 900 tonnes of plastic will be removed from stores as a result.

Hundreds of companies have already made pledges to cut back the amount of plastic and packaging they use.

  • Boots' announcement that it will replace plastic bags with paper ones has been met with worries from some that paper just isn't strong enough, and it seems that this issue has been around for decades. To test out just how strong paper bags were, the good people of 1953 put boxer Freddie Mills inside a giant one to test out just how durable it was.

Other plastic pledges:

Earlier this month, Waitrose unveiled a new “plastic-free” store, McDonald’s is replacing plastic straws with paper ones, and supermarket Iceland has promised to end plastic packaging from own-label products by 2023.

Starbucks has joined in too, promising to ditch plastic straws by 2020, a pledge that it says will eliminate the use of more than one billion plastic straws per year.

The firm that owns Guinness is also moving to stop using plastic, with Diageo announcing that plasticring carriers and shrink wrap will be removed from multipacks by 2020.

But companies aren't the only ones moving to eradicate single-use plastics, governments too are joining in.

Canada recently pledged to ban single-use plastics by 2021 after the European Union approved legislation promising the same thing.

The British government has also made a pledge to ban plastic straws, plastic drinks stirrers and plastic cotton buds in England from April 2020.

It comes as part of a worldwide push to cut single-use plastics which are damaging the environment and killing animals.

Greenpeace are one of many charities leading the way on raising awareness around plastic pollution. Credit: Daniel Muller/Greenpeace

Is paper a good replacement for plastic?

Despite the evidence against plastic being so striking, it appears many people don't see paper as the ideal replacement.

Since McDonald's replaced its plastic straws, customers have complained about paper straws being less durable and unpleasant to use.

With paper bags there is the less trivial matter of them becoming useless as soon as it begins to rain.

Despite the complaints over paper, the pledge by Boots and many other companies is generally being seen as a positive change.

What Boots have said:

Boots Managing director Seb James said: "Plastic waste is undoubtedly one of the most important issues" facing the planet today, adding how "TV shows like Blue Planet" are highlighting the effects of plastic pollution.

He went on: “This year, we are transforming Boots as we celebrate 170 years, and the move to unbleached paper bags is another pivotal moment in that journey. There is no doubt that our customers expect us to act and this change signifies a huge step away from our reliance on plastic.”

Helen Normoyle, director of marketing at Boots, said: “Our new paper bags have been carefully tested to make sure that, over their entire lifecycle, they are better for the environment, whilst still being a sturdy, practical option for customers who haven’t brought their own bags with them when shopping.”

The recycled brown bags cost 5p, 7p and 10p, depending on size, and the company said all profits will be donated to BBC Children in Need.

A history of paper bags at Boots. Credit: Boots

The boots 53 Boots stores stopping plastic bags from Monday, June 24:

  • Nottingham Victoria Centre

  • Derby Intu Shopping Centre

  • Sheffield Meadowhall Shopping Centre

  • Cambridge Petty Cury,

  • Peterborough Queensgate Centre

  • Manchester Trafford Centre

  • London Canary Wharf Canada

  • Bristol Broadmead

  • Milton Keynes Crown Walk,

  • Exeter High Street

  • Cardiff Queen Street

  • Oxford Cornmarket Street

  • Plymouth Drake Circus

  • Leeds Trinity

  • Belfast Donegal Place

  • Edinburgh 101 Princes Street

  • Aberdeen Bon Accord Centre

  • Newcastle Eldon Square

  • London Sedley Place

  • London Brent Cross Shopping Centre

  • London Liverpool St Station

  • Watford The Harlequin

  • Bromley The Glades Shopping Centre

  • Kingston Upon Thames Union Street

  • London Kensington

  • Southampton Above Bar Street

  • West Thurrock Lakeside Shopping Centre

  • Brighton North Street

  • Jersey St Helier Queen Street

  • London Piccadilly Circus

  • Dartford Bluewater Park

  • London 193 Oxford Street

  • Liverpool Clayton Square Shopping Centre

  • Manchester Market Street

  • Birmingham High Street

  • Canterbury Whitefriars Shopping Centre

  • Chelmsford High Chelmer

  • London White City Shopping Centre

  • York 43 Coney Street

  • Bath Southgate Centre

  • London Stratford City

  • Dudley Merry Hill Centre

  • Bristol Cribbs Causeway

  • Reading Oracle Centre

  • Lincoln High Street

  • Gateshead Metro Centre

  • Salcombe Fore Street

  • Glasgow Braehead Centre