Plastic is less than fantastic if we carry on with carrier bags

I have always been more than a little envious of those committed folk who dedicate a large chunk of their lives to collecting stuff.

Blaise is figuring out how we can cut down on disposable plastic bags
Blaise is figuring out how we can cut down on disposable plastic bags

We all know people who fill their box room with CDs and vinyl or those who own every replica football shirt produced for their team since 1984.

I have always had a more than grudging admiration for anybody who has both the patience and the stamina to build up a collection of anything, especially as all I have to show for my childhood is a battered selection of Asterix books.

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But things are changing as, along with millions of other Brits, I am slowly but surely building up an almighty collection of my own, housed beneath my kitchen sink. I am, of course, talking about my ever growing mountain of plastic carrier bags.

It was little more than three years ago that most of the population welcomed the news that we would have to shell out 5p for single use carrier bags every time we went to the supermarket.

We took the hint, because 5p really is too much to pay for a thin piece of plastic that breaks the minute you fill it up with more than three tins of baked beans and a Fray Bentos pie. Since the charge was introduced in October 2015, it is estimated that 15 billion of these flimsy carriers have been taken out of circulation, but we still collect the higher grade ‘bags for life’ at an unhealthy rate, with latest figures revealing that the major supermarkets sold nearly 1.2 billion of them in 2018.

The going rate for one of these more attractive bags is 10p, which is good value for the stressed shopper who has nipped to the shop without anything to carry home their hummus, family pack of avocados and half a dozen sausage rolls.

The latest study by the Environmental Investigation Agency reveals that the average family acquires a staggering 44 bags each year, largely because we don’t mind paying 10p for something that we intend to use again. The problem is that we very rarely reuse these bags and I personally cannot recall ever asking a cashier to replace my worn out Sainsbury’s or Aldi bag with a shiny new version.

It appears that not even the thought of marine life struggling to survive in a sea of plastic can prompt us to remember to take a bag to the shops with us.

This is clearly a problem because it takes more plastic to create a bag for life than it does one of the inferior 5p bags, meaning that the Government’s announcement last week that it intends to double the cost of the cheaper bags is largely pointless. Environment Secretary Michael Gove also says that he intends to extend the charge to all businesses, even the smaller outfits such as local butchers and greengrocers, which are currently exempt from the charge.

Read the inews story hereThe Government really needs to focus on the big boys - maybe shoppers should be charged £1 for one of these superior bags or made to carry out a forfeit if they continue to forget their bags? Being made to channel one’s inner Theresa May, circa 2016, chanting ‘Brexit Means Brexit’ in the world food aisle might do it.

All else has failed so something radical needs to be done if we are to be prevented from becoming a nation of plastic bag collectors.