I was standing in line at the supermarket checkout tonight when I noticed something odd: the lady in front of me was packing her groceries into Coles green bags. I looked again, a little shocked, assuming that these were something similar to Coles green bags, but the writing on the bags was in English, and the message was clear: “thankyou for shopping at Coles.”
Coles, for those who have no idea what I am talking about, is an Australian supermarket chain. It was our local supermarket in Tamworth, before we moved to Sweden. We had a collection of those green, re-usable, environmentally friendly, shopping bags at home, and sometimes we even remembered to take them with us to the supermarket when we did our shopping. The idea, of course, is to reduce the number of plastic bags used to pack groceries in.
But these bags have not found their way to Sweden yet. At least I thought they had not, until today. I couldn’t resist the very unSwedish thing of asking the lady where she got them from. “I haven’t seen Coles green bags in a while,” I said in Swedish, wondering if the lady concerned was Australian. “Have you been to Australia?” I asked. “No,” she replied in Swedish, “but my daughter has. And she brought these back for me. They are much better than the plastic shopping bags we have here,” she added.
I had to agree. I have been surprised that the Swedes, with all their environmental awareness, still have plastic bags in the supermarket at all. But the reason, I recently discovered, was that they are so profitable. The customer pays for carry out bags here, and the profit margin is around 75%. The supermarkets make millions of kronor from them. They charge for the paper ones too, but they cost more and are less popular. As long as plastic is profitable, I don’t imagine it will disappear from the checkouts. Unless, of course, the government decides to make them illegal. Maybe then Sweden will start importing green bags from Australia!!