Opinion: Plastic giveaways are giving mixed messages about environmental awareness campaigns

It is difficult not to feel like you are immersed in all sorts of hypocrisy when you do your grocery shopping these days.

When you arrive at the checkout the first question you are asked is "do you have your own shopping bags?"

And when you prepare to pay for your groceries you are asked if you are collecting the latest little toy on offer.

Little more than a year ago large supermarkets and many other stores introduced the concept of not supplying free plastic shopping bags at the counter.

The reason behind the initiative was to help reduce plastic in the environment by encouraging customers to bring their own, re-usable shopping bags.

It is clearly a positive step towards environmental consciousness, but is the customer getting mixed messages?

While this great concept is now firmly set in our shopping behaviour, many of these same businesses are unravelling their own good work by introducing more plastic.

Miniature plastic grocery items and plastic disney characters - all packaged in plastic wrappers or offered with storage cases featuring plastic - are offered to every customer with every transaction.

Very few customers knock back these offers as they collect for their children, grandchildren, neices, nephews or child of a friend who posted a call out on social media to help their child complete the collection.

Enticing customers with gifts and incentives is nothing new, and the idea of appealing to the shopping adult through their easily-convinced children has been commonplace for several years.

But seriously where and when will these unsolicited temptations end.

It was impressive to recently hear a customer, with two young children in tow, decline the offer of plastic toys. Their response was "no thanks, they already have enough toys". It was an answer worth applauding.

Perhaps supermarkets need to take a more traditional approach to attracting customers.

At the same time their plastic-free catch-cries would seem more genuine.

Let's get back to a time when good quality, great service and value for money was the number one key to business success.

Perhaps the savings made by not producing and giving away plastic toys would enable these stores to reduce prices, or maybe employ more staff for better service.

The savings could also be used to support valuable charities or even offer better returns to the primary producers such as dairy farmers.