So, the people of England are to be charged fivepence for a cheap poly bag to carry home their shopping as from 2015. Yes, it’s another one of Nick Clegg’s contributions to the Coalition. According to Slugger O’Toole, shoppers in Scotland are facing the charge from next year, Northern Ireland’s levy started this year and Welsh shoppers were hit two years ago.
Because plastic is a terrible thing. It takes ages to decompose and traps wildlife and causes litter and all sorts of calamities.
But hold on a moment. Most of our groceries are already wrapped in plastic. Most cardboard boxes have plastic inners and even tins are plastic-lined. The manufacturers can do all this while muggins at the checkout has to fork out for extra bags to put all the other plastic into.
I remember a telly advert from the 70s hailing what I suppose was the first mass-produced loaf of bread ever to be sold in a plastic bag, rather than wrapped in paper. I think it was called “Big D” and the words of the jingle went something like:
“It’s big on flavour and it’s big on size,
Now here’s the idea that’s the big surprise:
Big D, Big D, in a baa-aag”
I’ve tried searching on the ‘net, but I can’t find any trace of it. I know my memory is phenomenal, but hopefully someone else remembers it.
Look at how environmentally UNfriendly we have become in the past four decades:
THEN: Bread was wrapped in paper, not plastic (other than Big D).
NOW: Nearly all loaves are in poly bags.
THEN: Milk was delivered or shop-bought in glass bottles, which were collected/returned for reuse.
NOW: For ages, we had cardboard cartons then suddenly clunking great plastic monstrosities.
THEN: Similarly, fizzy drinks were in glass bottles, for which money was refunded for their return to the shop: a meager, but welcome extra revenue stream for us children.
NOW: Nearly all plastic.
THEN: All chocolate bars and snacks were wrapped in paper, as I recall.
NOW: Nearly all in plastic. I remember when this started happening over thirty years ago and being appalled.
THEN: Things were built to last.
NOW: They often barely survive past their one year warranty.
THEN: Consequently, things were dearer, as they were better made, so when something broke, we either fixed it ourselves or paid someone to fix it.
NOW: It is usually cheaper to buy a new one, complete with plastic wrappings and polystyrene for protection.
And the list goes on.
But, unlike most moneymaking scams, the profits from the bags are to go to environmental “charities”. I imagine the rather large sums will be used for climate change propaganda as well as removing plastic bags from rivers and trees.
But it could easily become a scam,
In Northern Ireland the levy has been so successful, reducing the number of bags by 80 per cent, they are doubling the charge to 10p. In Wales there has been a 76 per cent drop in plastic bag use since the charge was launched in 2011.
I reuse almost all my shopping bags by refilling them with rubbish, so from next year I will need to buy other plastic bags, which will probably be heavier duty. The net result will surely be even more plastic in landfill sites.
If the levy does lead to a drastic reduction in the number of bags being discarded in the streets and countryside then the plan might be of some value, but what of all the other plastic being used? Now that we have become such a “throw-away” society, where nothing lasts long and few things are biodegradable and some downright toxic, like the new light bulbs they expect us to use, why pick on the humble poly bag?
Remembering the few pennies we got from returning pop bottles, I was thinking along the lines of giving youngsters some cash for retrieving discarded bags, including ones from rivers and trees, but I imagine that the number of drownings and broken bones would bring a swift end to such a scheme.
Or instead of this:
Why not issue every household with one of these?
Although, I expect the Government would impose a road tax (or pavement tax) on them…
First picture taken from this Welsh website, without paying the bag levy.
Second picture from this forum.