Tam's Tall Tales

- Plastic Bags

Graphic of Plastic Bag Litter by "Lucyin" via Wikimedia.

A Tax to Reduce Plastic Bag Use

It is estimated that shoppers in Scotland work their way through more than 800 million bags every year - that's more bags per head than England, Wales or Northern Ireland. It is possible, of course, that canny Scots collect more free plastic bags in supermarkets etc so that that they can use them for other purposes at home. But many of them end up in land-fill sites or as litter blowing in the wind. And although there are plastics that can decompose faster, most of the ones used in shops take hundreds of years to decompose. They sometimes end up in water courses and damage the marine environment. Ducks and swans can ingest them and suffocate.

So a mandatory charge of 5 pence on every "single use" bag each has been imposed (with a few exceptions) from last Monday by the Scottish Government. Wales and Northern Ireland have introduced carrier bag charges and have reduced usage by 57 to 80%. A charge will be enforced in England from next year.

Shoppers are being encouraged to buy "bags for life" which are re-usable (but which cost at least 10 pence) and will be replaced if they eventually become badly damaged. Of course, that means that shoppers must remember to bring bags with them - Scottie tells me his pockets are now bulging not just with his compact camera and spare batteries for that and his mobile phone, but lots of folded up "bags for life". (The graphic of the "Have a Nice Day" plastic bag is by "Gorilla Sushi" via Wikimedia).

There are a few exceptions - single use plastic or paper bags can be free if they contain unpackaged foods and small bags such as those for greetings cards and sweets and the paper bags issued by pharmacists to dispense medicines.

It's up to each business to decide what to do with the revenue from the charges but are being "encouraged" by government to donate any profits to "good causes" especially those that benefit the environment.

Please give me whatever feedback comes to mind via tamfromrampant@gmail.com.

Tam O'Ranter
May 2014

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