Oh god. The big debate in the media today is the introduction of the 5p charge for plastic bags in supermarkets. People are up in arms about it. “It’s a rip off!” “It’s a money-making scam!” say the callers on the radio phone ins. I mean, really.
Supermarkets hand out 7.6 billion – BILLION!!! – bags a year. Collecting endless supermarket bags is a mindset which we have picked up over many years. Go shopping, get a free bag. In fact, in my local convenience store (is there such a thing as an inconvenience store?) the shop assistant asks every single customer “Would you like a bag?” even if you are buying nothing more than a newspaper.
And 7.6 billion bags is a lot of bags. On occasions, I have been as guilty as the next woman or man in assembling a collection of bags that I don’t really need. It’s dead lazy, but it’s easier. In recent years, I have tried to buck the trend by packing the boot of my car with at least two thicker shopping bags, to save the need for acquiring additional bags. It requires a little thought, I admit, to return these bags to the boot but – hey, it’s not impossible! – and now I am in the habit, I am wondering what this fuss is all about.
There are surely environmental concerns too. I can’t imagine that all these 7.6 billion bags end up being reused or recycled. Several million, maybe billion, will surely end up in landfill, a hole in the ground into which we tip our rubbish. Given that most of them are not biodegradable, they will just sit underground for ever and perhaps turn into futuristic fossils, discovered in hundreds of millions of years. “Oh look. It’s a Sainsbury’s carrier bag. I calculate this was from the 20th century, before supermarkets became extinct when people’s shopping was delivered by drones. Can you imagine actually leaving your front door to buy stuff?”
Some will say this is more of what David Cameron refers to as “that green crap” and so it is, except that it isn’t crap. Call me a liberal lefty tree hugger, but I think it actually matters that we are tipping all our non green crap underground and into the sea. I suspect there will be long term environmental considerations for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. Do we really take a Thatcherite “I’m all right, I’ll do what I want, so sod you!” attitude to matters such as these?
It’s only plastic bags. I’m going shopping soon, on my bicycle with a rucksack. Don’t think outside the box, think outside the bag. It’s not the nanny state, it’s doing our little, tiny bit for mankind. Is it really that hard to understand?