Within the North London Waste Prevention Plan, NLWA (The North London Waste Authority) launched several waste prevention actions concerning local businesses. In addition to its Prevention Guide for Businesses, it decided to involve several small retail shops in the promotion of waste prevention among their clients. The aim of the two-month Smart Shopping in North London project (January – February 2011) was to encourage the use of reusable shopping bags by offering shoppers a total of 7,000 free reusable cotton bags instead of plastic carrier bags.
The retailers targeted by the project included small to medium sized independent shops that typically give out a lot of plastic carrier bags. They were all provided with a Proud to Support Smart Shopping in North London sticker, awareness-raising posters, a copy of the Waste Prevention Guide for Businesses and, most importantly, reusable cotton bags, which were to be given out to those clients who needed a bag but did not bring one of their own. Apart from handing them the free bag, the shopkeepers were also expected to remind their clients to bring the bag with them next time they shopped. Each bag was accompanied by a smart shopping tips card. Finally, as a special bonus, customers who registered their bag online had the chance to win a solar powered DAB digital radio.
The project turned out to be a big success. The 29 shops which encouraged a total of 7,000 residents across north London to reuse their shopping bags achieved the direct diversion of an estimated 7 tonnes of waste produced by plastic bags. It is important to note that encouragement of use of reusable shopping bags in north London could achieve a diversion of 208 tonnes of waste, and so there is much potential for improvement.
All in all, the Smart Shopping project, by achieving all its objectives, shows that this kind of positive behaviour change among customers is possible and should be pursued.