Back from the back burner…

I thought I’d come to an ideological impasse, but I’ve a hunch I’m just the victim of pro-plastic propaganda. I just didn’t believe in the importance and moral value of a campaign to reduce plastic bags usage. Trevor‘s reply to my email got my burners jiggling again though.

Dear Simon,

Thank you for your email. With regard to plastic bags I ask myself the following questions,

  • Do we actually need to use plastic carrier bags? How did pre-plastic bag generations survive without them?
  • Is it not time to set sustainability boundaries around studies rather than just environmental boundaries like life cycle analysis, consumption of fossil fuels, finding ways into the food chain etc.. For example the impact of bags on wildlife are well documented but what about the impact on peoples aesthetic view of their surroundings? (we are looking at a material that could remain in the environment for a millennium)
  • If you purchase a bag for life made from any material would you not assume that people would use them over and over again and therefore want to buy bags that have a long shelve life? (I have had a cloth bag for lunch time shops for five years)
  • Are single use plastic bags free – no of course not, the cost of the bags is incorporated in the price of the good we buy ranging from two to five pence each
  • Why have so many countries banned their use – are they irrational?
  • Has there been a study of how the consumer actually use plastic bags? We have certainly done some survey work but have yet to quiz shoppers as they leave a supermarkets. (I for one used to tear one in five bags and ended up doubling the bags on some shops)?
  • If single use bags were not available would we not soon re learn to take a bag with us?
  • Recycling carrier bags is not easy. In the first place the market is poor and the value is very low. Secondly contamination levels are very high when derived from consumers (this is part of my job and I know that the market for recycled bags is very poorly developed)
  • They are perceived to be valueless so why not just through them away?
  • Despite only forming a small faction (if ubiquitous) of the waste stream aren’t they an icon of a wasteful society?

Coupled with the fact that I have done a lot of research into the adverse effects on ecosystems of plastic generally and the plastic bag, the only conclusion that I can come to is that it is a valued piece of work to obliterate this anarchic symbol of a throw away society.

Kind regards


Trevor Watson CIWM, CEnv
Recycling and Sustainability Manager
Lewes District Council