Time to address our plastic addiction

The Welsh Assembly Government have made plans to enact law from March 2011 whereby any outlet within the confines of the Welsh border that supplies plastic carrier bags to consumers charge a mandatory minimum of 7p per bag – instead of the usual practice of giving them away for free that has stood firmly for as long as I have been alive.

Some retailers already impose a charge, in the case of the small retailers to recoup the cost of purchasing them, but in the case of department store Marks & Spencer – for environmental reasons, where the money made from charging for these previously free commodities gets put back into the local community.

The CBI, whose very business it is to challenge new legislation on behalf of UK businesses, have been sounding their tannoy – as is to be expected. They warn that consumers could be “confused” and that the levy could cause tension at the checkouts, but what is a brief explanation that “bags now cost 7p” in comparison to the environmental devastation the millions of plastic bags that are put into landfill every year causes?

It is my view that people generally do keep as many plastic bags as they can, often using them as bin-liners, and incentive programmes set-up by large supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsburys – where if bags are brought back to the store to be re-used a reward in the form of extra reward points is given – are working, but the sheer numbers that are required to stem an ongoing environmental disaster are not yet being hit.

Making a law that enforces environmental awareness is a good step forward, a step that will force the everyman to change habits of a lifetime – habits that have seen big-business as the enablers for so many years, so why should they not be the ones to break the bad news?

Big-business started giving away free carrier bags, as much for advertising as for convenience, and the world has become hooked on them. Now we all need to be held accountable and change our ways.

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