Amelia Marshall was stationed outside the Carrefour supermarket in Part-Dieu Centre Commercial in Lyon, France. She reports on how her own plastic bag habits have changed.
Sturdy reusable bags are commonly used for shopping in Lyon, as quickly became clear in this survey. Of 100 customers, 31 used new plastic bags. Most of the remainder brought their own plastic bags, backpacks, reusable or cotton bags, while 10 used no bag of any kind. Put another way, nearly 70% did not use new plastic bags.
My habits have changed quite notable since my arrival in Lyon. In Sydney I would buy groceries fortnightly, often forgetting my green bags and accumulating plastic bags as a result. I would then reuse these as garbage bags.
In Lyon I do not have access to a car and the amount of groceries I buy is restricted by what I can carry. I now tend to go to the supermarket or farmers’ market two or three times a week and carry at least one reusable bag with me at all times, to allow for any spur-of-the-moment shopping trips.
I believe there are several reasons for the differences in usage between here and Sydney. For one thing, public transport in Lyon is regular and reliable, and covers most of the city and suburbs; whereas parking is hard to come by and only offered at a prohibitive cost. Many people choose to carry their groceries, rather than load them into a car.
Plastic bags are not overly expensive, so it is unlikely that it is cost that prevents shoppers from buying more. Rather, the process of buying bags – choosing the number needed, and asking the cashier to supply them – encourages customers to think twice about whether they really need them at all.
It is also noteworthy that the reusable bags are not used only for shopping: I saw many Lyonnais using them also as a simple carry bag when going to the gym or even travelling.
Amelia Marshall is a UTS international journalism student studying in Lyon.