Plastic is not so fantastic...
It was little more than three years ago that most of the population welcomed the news we would have to shell out 5p for single use carrier bags every time we went to the supermarket.
We took the hint, because 5p really is too much to pay for a thin piece of plastic, which breaks the minute you fill it up with more than three tins of baked beans and a Fray Bentos pie. Since the charge was introduced in October 2015, it is estimated 15bn of these flimsy carriers have been taken out of circulation, but we still collect the higher grade ‘bags for life’ at an unhealthy rate, with latest figures revealing the major supermarkets sold nearly 1.2bn of them in 2018. The going rate for one of these more attractive bags is 10p, which is good value for the stressed shopper who has nipped to the shop without anything to carry home their hummus, family pack of avocados and half a dozen sausage rolls. The latest study by the Environmental Investigation Agency reveals the average family acquires a staggering 44 bags each year, largely because we don’t mind paying 10p for something that we intend to use again.
The problem is we very rarely reuse these bags and I cannot recall ever asking a cashier to replace my worn out Sainsbury’s or Aldi bag with a shiny new version. This is clearly a problem because it takes more plastic to create a bag for life than it does one of the inferior 5p bags, meaning the Government’s announcement that it intends to double the cost of the cheaper bags is largely pointless.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove also says he intends to extend the charge to all businesses, even the smaller outfits which are currently exempt from the charge. The Government really needs to focus on the big boys - maybe shoppers should be charged £1 for one of these superior bags or made to carry out a forfeit if they continue to forget their bags? Being made to channel one’s inner Theresa May, circa 2016, chanting ‘Brexit Means Brexit’ in the world food aisle might do it.
All else has failed so something radical needs to be done if we are to be prevented from becoming a nation of plastic bag collectors.