Boots faces backlash over ‘hypocrisy’ for making switch from plastic to paper bags

Katie O'Malley

Boots has been accused of “hypocrisy” after announcing plans to switch from plastic bags to paper alternatives despite continuing to use plastic bags for medical prescriptions.

On Monday 24 June, Boots announced plans to ditch plastic bags in all its stores by next year and replace them with paper alternatives.

The high street retail giant said 53 stores will lose plastic bags at checkouts from Monday, with all 2,485 shops only offering customers paper versions from early next year.

However, several customers have pointed out that the retail store recently introduced medical prescription bags made of plastic.

In a message posted on Twitter following Boots’ announcement regarding paper bags, one user tweeted: “Trust this means your prescription bags are going to be all paper ones as well!”

Another wrote: “They have changed to using plastic bags for dispensing now though instead of paper ones! Total hypocrisy!”

A third asked: “I am pleased to see you are moving to paper bags in your stores, but why was my boxed prescription medication wrapped in a plastic bag last week?”

Another customer, named Roisin Moriarty, told the BBC that the company’s continued use of plastic bags for prescriptions was “a classic case of paying lip service while not really caring”.

“They’ve ignored the pleas from environmental agencies and customers to reverse their plastic packaging for prescriptions policy,” she told the news outlet.

Last month, Boots came under fire from customers after it began handing out repeat drug prescriptions in plastic bags instead of its traditional paper alternatives.

Charities including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace were “baffled” by the decision and called on the Government to improve its legislation on single-use plastics.

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party echoed the charities’ sentiments, tweeting: “Turning from paper to plastic to save costs is not an acceptable way to run a business these days. Your customers are rightly livid and baffled. Sort this out please.”

At the time, Boots explained the decision for using plastic bags was due to some prescriptions being assembled at a DPS (Dispensing Support Pharmacy) based in Preston before being sent out to individual stores.

The company said the bags needed to be “heat-sealed shut” to reduce the risk of products falling out during transportation.

In light of the new backlash, Boots said on Twitter that it was “actively” looking into alternatives to plastic prescription bags “including cellulose (compostable), potato starch and a paper solution”.

UK Government Proposes Higher Plastic Bag Charge (Getty Images)

Another tweet explained how the company’s centralised pharmacy uses plastic bags which are “100 per cent recyclable”, which enables the company to “deliver medicines to patients in a way that is safe, clean and durable”.

According to the company, its plastic prescriptions bags can be recycled through carried bag collection points and in some local authorities where kerbside collection schemes accept plastic film.

“Removing plastic carrier bags from our stores will remove 900 tonnes of plastic from our supply chain – this is more than 18 times the amount that we use in total in our pharmacy bags each year,” the Nottingham-based company said in a statement.

“Central dispensing accounts for a very, very small proportion of our total dispensing; the overwhelming majority of our prescriptions are still dispensed in stores in paper bags, and we’re making these even more environmentally friendly by moving to unbleached brown paper dispensing bags from September.”

The Independent has contacted Boots for further comment.