Should we ban plastic bags?

January 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm 8 comments

Guardian’s website today reports on the rise of our use of plastic bags. According to the figures by the New Statesman from official government sources, the number of bags used a month by each person in the UK dropped from 11 in 2002 to 7.2 in 2009, but then rose again to 7.7 last year – equivalent to 475m bags in total per month.

I went to India  a year ago and came across my first town to ban plastic bags – Mussoori – in fact if you look it up – one of the ‘Don’t’ tips for the town is ‘Don’t carry Plastic bags are as they are banned in Mussoorie’. I remember walking through the centre of the town and there was a huge display shouting out to visitors that Mussoori was a plastic bag free town – impressive.

What are people’s thoughts about banning plastic bags? Banning plastic bags the only way to reduce our dependence?


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brenton Caffin  |  January 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    The State of South Australia banned plastic bags 18 months ago.

    The retail industry predicted a massive drop in sales, which never eventuated.

    After 12 months, the government did a survey which showed 90% approval of the policy.

  • 2. Raj  |  January 18, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Thanks, Brenton. I read the link provided – it would be interesting to know whether there was any impact on manufacturers or employment? Something on the top of our government’s list I suppose.

    I was thinking about theblog last night and the use of plastic bags around my home – not just shopping. I think the second biggest usage of plastic bags in my house is for bins (one of the many OCD habits passed down from my mother) – If someone could invent a bin that doesn’t need a plastic bag lining – i’d be a happy woman.

    And while we’re on the subject – does anyone have a green alternative for plastic tuppleware?

  • 3. thirup  |  January 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    An interesting anecdote. When i was at the embassy in Japan, we got a report from the embassy in China that Beijing in their preparations for the olympics wanted to address polution in the city and therefore agreed to ban plastic bags in supermarkets. The ban was agreed on a wednesday and was implemented on the thursday… the blessings of living in a good old fashioned communist dictatorship!!

    On a different note, plastic bags in Denmark have some of the highest taxes on them of all products sold in the supermarket, which led to a significant reduction in the use of plastic bags. (unfortunately it also created a market for plastic bags, so the supermarkets now sell them for an even higher price than that tax to make a profit of them)

    But yes, i think we should definetely put a high tax on plastic bags and force supermarkets to sell/offer sustainable reusable plastic bags.

  • 4. Claire McEneaney  |  January 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I think supermarkets are pretty good at offering sustainable bags now. The main problem will be around changing people’s behaviour to ensure that they actually use them! We have several in our house and I always take them to the supermarket at the weekend. The problem comes when I make last minute purchases on my way home from work, when I invariably don’t have a bag with me. Perhaps we could use biodegradable paper bags for this kinds of small, impromptu purchases?

  • 5. Raj  |  January 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    That’s a good point Claire – one I am definitely guilty of. May be we could be thinking about designing handbags differently to accommodate small purchases? Or there could be a bag banks outside stores of reused bags that people use and put back so that when we forget to bring bags with us we can go to a local bag bank on our street and reuse one rather get a new one from in store?

  • 6. Alan  |  January 21, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I think we have to nudge peoples behaviour a little more before we introduce a blanket ban, but I do think its an aspiration we should be working towards. They are a blight.

    The supermarkets have a very powerful lobby so you’d have to throw them something in return, or at least a willingness to take the political flak when they inevitably start charging for the sustainable alternatives. You could even levy a small tax on plastic bags – again you’d have to be open about saying it should be passed onto customers – as an intermediate step before a ban, although once a tax is introduced, the chances of it later being scrapped are always pretty low!

    I echo Claire’s plastic bag philosophy – last minute panic buying tends to be the only time I use plastic bags now. I used to try creative methods of carrying all my goods home, before learning the hard way that passata mottled jeans and jam soaked jumpers are not good looks.

  • 7. Claire McEneaney  |  January 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I like the idea of a reusable bag bank Raj! You can also get little fabric bags which scrunch up really small. They’re still man-made but much more likely to get reused.

    We’ve started doing online shopping for our groceries in an attempt to reduce bags and the number of impromptu purchases we make. Imagine our shock when it all turned up with often just one item per bag! We gave them back to the delivery guy when he came next and have been in touch with the supermarket in question to raise our displeasure at this!
    Surely they could use cardboard boxes or something?!

    We used to get fruit/veg delivered which came in a cardboard box that you left out each week so that they could reuse it. Much better solution!

    Alan, I think M&S now charge for a plastic bag but I have to be honest I’m not sure this is the answer. When I’m tired, hungry and on my way home, I don’t mind paying 5p extra for a plastic bag! It would be interesting to see how much their plastic bag usage has changed as a result of this.

  • 8. Raj  |  January 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I agree, Claire. I don’t think charging for bags is the answer. And I think it’s sad when the consumer is more conscientious about these kind issues than the retailer – it indicates a lack of engagement on the retailer’s side. I think retailers should definitely be encouraging more reuse – they should accept previous bags that consumers bring in – you can always ask a consumer if they’d like a new bag or reused bag – if we want to spark behaviour change some gentle nudging could be a good start.

    Here’s hoping someone picks up on the bag bank idea! 😉


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