Penalties for using plastic bags

November 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Perhaps the greatest users of the plastic bag are to be found in England. Why are the English such devotees of plastic bags? Plastic bags are not things of beauty. I don’t like looking at them or touching them or hearing their particular crackle.

It is not the norm for characters in novels to carry plastic bags. If writers were to be truer to life, novels would be crowded with people, crackling plastic bags. Characters’ accoutrements would often include plastic bags, sporting the logo of a much-advertised supermarket.

Writers don’t give the plastic bag much room in their fiction. Not as much room, I think, as brown paper parcels–those precursors of the plastic bag–were given. Brown paper parcels are a very different matter. They appeal to the imagination in a way that plastic bags never could.

Years ago (about 1992) a friend of mine spoke in disgust of our fellow country people, the Irish. They were a dirty littering species whose nationality he was ashamed to share. He had just come back from Bavaria where there was no devotion to the plastic bag. The Germans had their own receptacles for carrying shopping which they used again and again. They did not pollute the environment with plastic bags as the Irish did

Those were the bad old days: the Irish have made a considerable advance since then. Gone are the days when people emerge from Irish food stores burdened with plastic bags. What brought about this change? Were shoppers concerned about the environment? Sadly no! Their concern was a mercenary one. Food stores began to charge for plastic bags which they had formerly provided so profligately.

When people had to pay for plastic bags, they quickly found that plastic bags were dispensable. Shoppers managed to bring their own reusable bags or carry goods to the car in cardboard boxes. A revolution occurred.

You can tell people that cutting down their consumption of plastic bags would be good for the environment or you can simply penalise them for using plastic bags (make them pay for them). The second way has immediate results and the first—as can be seen in England—only negligible ones. In England there is plenty of talk about the environment, but the plastic bag still flourishes.


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