Hi everybody, Thomas here. Are you a bit like me and are still dumbfounded by the sight of people carrying their shopping in plastic bags? That in this day and age, people are still using plastic bags despite being aware of the havoc they cause to the environment? I must confess, it is similar to the reaction I get when I see young people smoking. I just cannot understand why people persist in doing these things despite the tidal waves of information that say it is really not such a good idea.
I have actually confronted friends and family who still use plastic bags in order to get some kind of explanation out of them. The most common retort I get is that they reuse the bags as bin liners and therefore need to keep taking plastic bags to add to the massive collection that they already have at home. The idea of using paper bags as bin liners or buying biodegradable bin liners apparently hasn’t occurred to them yet.
Frankly, I think that people continually use plastic bags because they are lazy and/or just don’t really realise how nasty they are. How else can we explain the fact that so many people brazenly walk down the street with arm-fulls of plastic bags? I know that on the odd occasion I have made an impulse buy and don’t have a bag with me or when I miscalculate how much shopping I need to do and don’t have enough bags, I am extremely embarrassed and shamed about accepting a plastic bag. How come more people don’t also feel this shame?
Does it sound like I’m overreacting a little bit and perhaps being a bit too self righteous? Check out these facts and you may see where I’m coming from:
- Every year 17 billion plastic carrier bags are given away free in the UK – that’s about 300 plastic bags for each person in Britain.
- Plastic does not bio-degrade. It just doesn’t. It hangs around forever (OK forever may be an exaggeration but scientists currently estimate that plastic lasts for at least 1000 years, so that’s a pretty long time).
- Every plastic bag that has ever been made is still on the planet. Most of the bags end up in landfill or float out to sea.
- Plastic bags kill over 100,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, whales and turtles every year.
So the wretched things are pretty harmful and just not worth the short-term convenience that they provide. The good news is that attitudes around the world are changing. Plastic bags have been completely banned in Bangladesh and Taiwan, and China has announced that it will do the same. Ireland introduced a 15p levy on plastic bags and found that this led to a 90% reduction on their use.
In May 2007 Modbury in South Devon became Britain’s first plastic bag free town. Modbury didn’t achieve this through years or campaigning and lobbying – they pulled it off over 4 weeks. The whole thing was initiated by Rebecca Hosking, who had been filming a BBC documentary about the devastating effect of plastic on marine life. Some of the images that Rebecca’s camera of animals intwined in plastic were truly heartbreaking. The idea was first brought up at the pub one night and then Rebecca took her film to the town traders. As a community the people of Modbury banned the plastic bag. It’s a pretty inspirational story.
Alastair Sawday Publishing have just published Ban The Plastic Bag: A Community Action Plan. It is about the Modbury story but uses it as a call to action for other villages, towns and cities to do the same. The book is published as part of the Fragile Earth series, which is also the imprint that The Book of Rubbish Ideas falls under. If you order Ban The Plastic Bag direct from the Sawday’s online shop or through the 2009 Christmas catalogue then you’ll also receive a free organic cotton bag – so there really will be no excuse to use plastic bags anymore!
Buy Ban The Plastic Bag from the Sawday’s online shop here or download the Sawday’s 2009 catalogue here. It is cheaper to buy it via the Christmas catalogue but I included the online shop link also for people who may be stumbling across this after Christmas.
PS I don’t mean to be too salesman like but I just wanted to quickly add that all the Sawday’s books are included in the 2009 Christmas catalogue and they are all cheaper in the catalogue than they are online. So if you want to stock up on our books for yourself or for presents then now is a good time.