Mayor Boris Johnson wants to ban free plastic bags across London before the 2012 Olympics, calling them an ‘unnecessary scourge on our environment’. Will you back Boris, or is there still room for plastic bags?
According to WRAP, plastic bag usage went up by 5% last year – and it’s riled up Boris Johnson – he wants London to be a ‘plastic bag free city’ and is ‘planning a renewed campaign to help do so ahead of 2012 when the eyes of the world are on us.’
At the moment, London doesn’t have the power to ban or charge for carrier bags – it’ll need special permission from Westminster. However, Wales is well on the way to implementing a 5p levy on single-use bags, which it hopes will cut usage by 90%.
Boris will be keeping an eye on how this turns out – but what about you? Do you think free plastic bags need to die out?
Plastic bag usage on the up
Ignoring other retailers, supermarkets gave out a whopping 6.4 billion plastic bags last year, 333 million more than in 2009. Some say this is due to supermarkets abandoning their policy to keep carrier bags from check-outs. And it’s a stat that’s piling pressure on the government to introduce a levy on plastic bags in London.
This isn’t a new idea – London Councils campaigned for a ban on free plastic bags in 2008, which was then dropped after assurances that the issue would be tackled. They want to take up the cause again, with Jules Pipe, chairman of London Councils, commenting:
‘While single-use bags are a small element of the waste stream, they are hugely symbolic of our throwaway culture – a culture that we can’t continue.’
Personally, I’m not sure charging just 5p is enough. And it doesn’t look like you’re convinced either – 80% of you voted that plastic bags should be free in a previous Convo poll.
The 5p tax on carrier bags
For me, 5p isn’t a big enough deterrent or, more importantly, a big enough incentive to remember my reusable bags. In fact, when I do forget my reusables, I simply buy another (I find them stronger and more roomy than throwaway carriers) hence my hefty collection of well over 50 reusable plastic bags.
So should we instead embrace a full ban on single-use plastic bags?
Four years ago the town of Modbury in Devon did just that – all of its shops now use corn-starch, paper or cloth bags. Commenter Rachel backs this sentiment:
‘My opinion is do away with plastic bags altogether in supermarkets. It’s a cultural thing […] we are too used to having the convenience of plastic bags and it’s time we weaned ourselves off them!’
Then again, Ireland’s plastic bag tax appears to have worked. Since its 15 cents levy was introduced in 2002, carrier bag usage has dropped from 27 per person to just two in 2009.
Is banning bags the answer?
Not everyone feels this way, with a spokesperson for the Packaging and Films Association (PAFA) criticising all banning plans:
‘Analysis has made it clear that plastic, if re-used then recycled, is the best environmental choice. Politicians looking to appeal to green voters should not insult their intelligence. They would do better to accept the science.’
The PAFA spokesperson goes on to say that Boris should encourage a ‘reduce, re-use and recycle’ habit rather than talking about a ban – ‘people don’t want bans or taxes. They want authoritative advice on environmental issues.’
So where do you stand? Will our plastic bag obsession change with environmental advice, or like Boris, do you think there needs to be more drastic action, like a plastic bag tax or ban?