THE days of plastic shopping bags in the Eastern Cape are numbered. Supermarket chain SPAR Eastern Cape will be the flag-bearer of progress against water and land pollution throught the launch of its new initiative to protect the natural environment. The company announced last week that it will be implementing alternative options as an initiative to urge their customers to consider alternative packaging options. With thousands of shopping bags in circulation, SPAR EC managing director Conrad Isaac said that SPAR could no longer ignore its accountability in what was becoming an increasingly harmful situation in the world. “We believe that safeguarding our environment and the future are often spoken about but not much is done. “As the biggest food retailer in the Eastern Cape, I believe we have to take care of the health and well-being of the communities in which we operate,” said Isaac.Facing a massive challenge to change the consumer’s mindset, SPAR EC launched their campaign with a drive the past weekend. The purpose of this drive was to encourage shoppers to exchange plastic shopping bags for paper bags. Members of the public were given a paper bag free of charge for every 10 plastic shopping bags brought to any one of SPAR’s Eastern Cape outlets. The SPAR paper shopping bags are wax-lined, waterproof and reusable bags capable of carrying up to 12kg of shopping. Having long been involved in the fight against pollution, Zwartkops Conservancy environmental manager Jenny Rump was full of praise for SPAR EC’s decision to spearhead this initiative. The Zwartkops Conservancy aims to protect and preserve the Swartkops Estuary which is said to be one of the most important estuaries in South Africa. “We are over the moon with their passion for the project and this is a much-needed wake-up call.” Isaac said SPAR Eastern Cape understood old habits would be hard to change, but nevertheless, was looking forward to the campaign evolving into far bigger projects than just plastic bags; one that would eventually incorporate the collection and recycling of all plastic.