England’s only now phasing out free plastic bags – a mammoth parliamentary scandal?

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A week on Monday the English shoppers are in for a shock – albeit only a little shock for now though. The free re-usable plastic shopping bag is going to be compulsorily charged-for at 5 pence each – BUT only by the BIG-boy retailers.

Oh yes, over the past fifty years the ‘single use’ ‘free’ plastic bag became a popular feature in most countries around the world – but when the extent of the nightmare that had been created became evident, the gene was already out of the bottle, wasn’t it?

They are certainly cheap – so cheap that stores can give them away to their customers willy-nilly, and they do so in unlimited quantities. They are undoubtedly hygienic, lightweight, and strong shopping carriers made with high density polyethylene – which requires though quite significant non-renewable petroleum resource to produce each bag [and we in England use some eight billion (that is 8,000,000,000,) of them yearly].

Ah, but then as well the plastic doesn’t degrade does it (perhaps not in your lifetime?) unlike the thicker low-density polyethylene, so thereon follows horrendous problems of disposal, landfill pollution, and severe global environmental consequences including the blight of water blockages of drains, sewers & rivers (certainly resulting in decease) caused by litter & thrown away bags – in the nineties 10 years of flooding in Bangladesh submerging two-thirds of the country – worldwide tens & tens of thousands of marine mammals & sea creatures killed, and farm, domestic and wild animals dead, birds & their chicks destroyed – all through plastic bag ingestion mistaken for food.

While a couple of dozen other governments around the world have done ‘something’ (or tried to), scandalously ours has done NOTHING whatsoever. Why is that? Is it because they are a crowd of crooks in the hands of the supermarkets and multi-national retailers, do you think? Far from phasing out the use of these plastic killers and environmental abusers, our MPs have irresponsibly sat there simply increasing their income and milking their expenses.

Why then are they acting now, you might wonder? Because they have seen the light? Because their conscience got the better of them? Because they care more now about the environment? NO. NO. NO. NO. It is simply because they have been forced to do so by the European Union – we in UK are now required to reduce usage by half in two years and by eighty percent in four years. Will that be done in England? Not by the current legislation, surely? Mind you the Welsh, the Northern Irish, and the Scots might help the UK out, don’t you think?

While around ten counties have completely banned altogether these little blighters, another dozen have banned free issue or introduced a levy. In the UK, Wales was the first to act four years ago with a levy and have phased out three quarters of these plastic bags; Northern Ireland was next two years ago with the same outcome; Scotland was last year and dropped usage by two thirds in three months; England sat on its hands throughout, so the use of these vile bags has actually INCREASED each year for the past FIVE years! You see our pretend stupid lot said they had to ‘see first how well others got on’ with charging for use – you don’t have to be particularly bright to work out though that charging will reduce usage, do you?.

The government now admit that over the next ten years the benefits of the England charging scheme will include nearly eight million pounds extra into the UK economy, and almost the equivalent amount into charity, as well as thirteen million pounds of carbon savings. How then can they justify having dragged their feet for all these years?

Oh yes we in England are not alone in ineptitude when it comes to vested interests – lobbying and corruption always skew outcomes don’t they? America has no nationwide policy on plastic bag fee charging or banning (California state has a ban and other counties ban or fee charge); Mexico has an unenforced ban ; Canada nothing done; Australia has a few states banning; New Zealand nothing; South Africa has unenforced regulation.

Some countries are successful in dealing effectively with the problem. Denmark introduced a tax a dozen years ago and has now the lowest plastic bag usage per person in Europe; Italy has banned; Kenya has banned; Botswana has banned; Italy banned four years ago (bio allowed).

 

[Perhaps we should give the BIG-boys a miss and all go back immediately to small retailers and regular shopping on the High Street and using proper bags, string bags, bags for life, or fold up bags the size of a handkerchief?]

 

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