Public relations and co.

When local newspapers are PR agency and retail giant agents

The question our local newspapers should be asking Mr Philippe Peguilhan country manager at Carrefour UAE at Majid Al Futtaim Retail is: what has changed since their introduction of reusable bags in 2007.

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A customer’s cart at Carrefour City Center Me’aisem on “International Plastic Bag Free Day,” 3 July 2019

“Carrefour is striking a blow in the UAE’s war on waste” — The National, 2 July 2019

The National proclaims itself as “the Middle East’s leading English-language news service” which if true, means the Middle East’s English readers are in la-la land?

Numerous news outlets carried the story but none did it with the outlandish colorful depiction of The National, and all failed to mention that for customers to claim the free bag (only one bag per customer), they had to make a purchase of AED 50 or more. The minor details.

I visited 6 different Carrefour outlets yesterday on my way home from a social impact event I attended in Abu Dhabi. In 2 outlets, not hypermarkets, the cashiers had absolutely no idea about the offer. In the other 4, one hypermarket’s dedicated checkout for eco-carriers was closed and customers who brought their own reusable bags had to wait in line in other checkout counters like other customers. I inadvertantly helped make Carrefour’s campaign a success by telling customers about the offer and how they can redeem it. The customer service rep who had to deal with the inquiring customers may not have been happy about the extra work, I suspect.

2 of the hypermarkets I visited yesterday didn’t inform customers who brought their own bags of the offer, and at one location the dedicated checkout was used by customers who simply wanted to avoid queues at the other checkout counters, and those customers had to buy the reusable bags while the customers at other checkout counters had their items liberally packed in plastic bags.

And then there was this.

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Carrefour customers who opt for free delivery get their items delivered in plastic bags, every day and on “International Plastic Bag Free Day”

Gulf News, in a toned down news piece which puts Carrefour’s campaign into perspective, mentions that “similar initiatives over the past year have resulted in 10 times more customers buying reusable bags, reducing the over-reliance upon single-use plastics,” and this is rephrased in Dubai Week and AbuDhabi World. My question to these news outlets and to Carrefour is: who is keeping track of the behavior change? Being able to sell customers on reusable bags doesn’t mean those customers are actually reducing their reliance on single-use plastics or that there is “an increase in the number of customers ditching plastic.” Are we forgetting that many of the products sold on Carrefour shelves are packaged in plastic?

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Single or multiple use? Plastic on the Carrefour shelves, “International Plastic Bag Free Day” 3 July 2019

The reason not much has changed since 2007 is that there are many questions that remain to be addressed, and our local news outlets are turning a blind eye.

These Carrefour bags are labelled “ecofriendly” but are made from oxo bio-degradable plastic, the same material in the single use plastic shopping bags provided for free by the outlet. Oxo-biodegradable plastics breakdown into harmful microplastics and the European Commission has advised against their use.

Are you ready to ditch lining your garbage bin?

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