This morning, like most other Sunday mornings, I bought my Sunday paper (the Observer, since you ask) at our local newsagent. As on every other occasion I have bought a paper there, he asked if I wanted a bag for it. As always, I declined – I’ve given up pointing out the waste this habit causes. When I said, months ago, that I didn’t want a bag, and what’s more, they might consider the environmental consequences of offering a bag to everyone, he looked at me as if I was mad.
The use of plastic bags in this country is a disgrace. In other European countries, it is routine (as of course it used to be here) to go shopping with a sturdy shopping bag. Plastic bags are very much the last resort. German stores always sell very cheap, but durable canvas bags for people without a shopping bag. In Ireland, you can have a bag, but you pay for it – the result is that plastic bag use in supermarkets has declined – people use proper bags, or reuse their old plastic ones. Litter is reduced, as is the number of bags going to landfill.
The UK government considered such a scheme three years ago, but obviously decided it had more important things to do, even though the supermarkets were in favour. Maybe the supermarkets should just do it anyway- there must be some forum where the suits from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and the rest meet up. Why can’t they just agree that they will henceforth charge 10p a bag? And why not commit the profit from that charge to environmental schemes? Then they could show they had a conscience, benefit the environment, feel good about themselves, and it would cost them nothing.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Do you want a bag for that? by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.