The Complexity of Dealing With Plastic Bags

It is very difficult to understand why the government of the United Kingdom, with all its resources and all its clever members of Parliament are taking so much time and making so much complexity in introducing a simple requirement to charge for the use of plastic bags.

The proposal is simple: the Republic of Ireland and the principality of Wales have long had rules that require shops to charge a modest amount if they supply a bag with the goods the people buy. In Wales the charges only 5p and the Welsh seemed to cope with it very easily. The use of plastic bags in Wales has declined as people reuse them or bring their own shopping bags when they come shopping (just like our mothers used to do) and the fewer plastic bags there are in the environment the better it is for the environment. Making everyone pay for a plastic bag which would otherwise be given free simply makes people pay for the pollution they cause.

England, which uses more than 8 billion disposable carrier bags every year, still has not introduced rules to make people pay for their bags. However the legislature seems to have made the issue terribly complicated and the draft rules contain all kinds of exemptions for which it is difficult to find justification.

If the government cannot make simple rules about such a simple subject I wonder how it can make rules about more complicated subjects. Perhaps it is a lack of competence on the part of the government augmented by the usual lobby interests of businesses.

The next item on the agenda that the government should address (and I hope they can do this with a lot less complication than the mess they have made of the charge for plastic bags) is to either require food and product manufacturers to use significantly less packaging than they already use, or to put some form of tax on the packaging.

Of course it is convenient to buy items such as pears in a polystyrene dish with a hard plastic dome encased in polythene, but it is not terribly environmentally friendly. It probably enables the vendors such as the supermarkets to charge more than they should be charging because the packaging seems expensive and therefore the product seems expensive.

Big businesses spend a great deal of time and energy in designing packaging. They know that it detracts customers from the quality of what is inside the box or bag and we customers are often foolish enough to be fooled by the appearance. It is said that you should not judge a book by its cover, but people do, and judge a product by its packaging.

It is worth repeating the plastic bag statistic for England. England uses 8 billion drastic bags a year; in other words England uses an amount of plastic bags each that is greater than the population of the world. I started by writing that it is difficult to understand how the government could find it so complicated to end the plastic bag problem and I shall finish by writing that it is also difficult to understand how we English have got into the habit of going shopping without bags.

2 Responses

  1. I agree with you… In Italy it’s the same mess…

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