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Plastics News - the plastic bags issue

March 16, 2014 at 5:49 PM

plastic_bag.jpgLet’s admit it: plastic bags are not the most attractive thing in the world… especially when wrapped around the neck of a beautiful seabird.  Such bags look tawdry when discarded in our towns and villages; awful when set against the gorgeous English countryside.  Even worse, 75% of seabirds in the English Channel, and 33% of fish, are contaminated by plastic waste… and most of that will have come from plastic bags.  Every one of us supposedly ‘cultured’ Europeans gets through around 200 bags a year, most of which will only be used the one time before being discarded.  In our own home we use a container to encourage us to reuse the bags but even so, there must surely be a better way of transporting things about.

So, what can we do?  Well the EU is now acting centrally, in an attempt to curb the situation across the continent.  In 2013 the EU proposed levies on plastic bags, and even suggested bans, or at least targets for reduction.  Many countries have already introduced such levies, such as Spain, Norway, France and Ireland.  Italy is even facing legal action after launching its own ban three years ago.

And then we come to the UK.  Here we already have a 5p levy, due to come in next year, having already been trialled in Northern Ireland and Wales, and coming to Scotland this October.  Perhaps because of that – and despite support from the environment committee – the government is currently resisting further legislation, perhaps because of its systemic resistance to European meddling in domestic affairs.  It seems the mood is for putting one’s head in one’s bag and hiding, rather than hiding the bags themselves.

So what’s on the table?  Well, the EU plan is to reduce single-use plastic bags by 50% in the next three years, and by 80% by the end of the decade, across the EU.  The legislation would also allow for an outright ban on plastic bags, should that be the will of any member state.  Each member state would then need to take legislative action to implement these targets.  

Perhaps not surprisingly, the issue pits the will of the Green Party, who back the move, against the Conservative-led coalition government who are suspicious, perhaps because of the political implications.  By resisting the changes, however, the government opens itself up to the attack that they don’t care about the environment, and the health of the marine life the thrives in the strip of sea between the UK and the continent.  Further, the argument holds that they are failing to invest in the future environmental health of the UK.  In April, the issue we be discussed at parliament so we shall wait and see the results of those discussions.

Personally - and as a fan of US sitcoms like Seinfeld and Friends - I would like to see a move towards brown paper bags for groceries… there is something so much more aesthetically pleasing, and romantic, about coming home to your loft apartment charged with paper bags full of deli-bought goodies.  Then again, perhaps I just need to watch more Corrie and Eastenders…


Category: plastics news

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