Deal With IT's Secretary Victoria Nicholls writes a regular column in the East Kent Mercury:
Shoppers in Britain have done well over the last few years to reduce the amount of plastic bags they use. In fact, 43% fewer bags were used in 2009/10 than in 2006, when records were first kept. Figures collected from the top eight supermarkets show that total bag usage fell by 10% during the past year.
The Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap) informs us that figures for May this year tend to show that this reduction in use has slowed down. There was a voluntary agreement between the government, the British Retail Consortium and the supermarkets to decrease the number of plastic bags handed out to shoppers by 50% by spring 2009. Wrap reported that by May last year retailers had achieved a 48% reduction. A rate of reduction of 45% has been achieved this year, showing a drop since the voluntary agreement ended.
Can we really congratulate ourselves? Of course, to reduce the use of plastic to any degree is to be applauded but we must continue this reduction until plastic bags are not given out in shops at all, as in mainland Europe. Campaigners want continued reduction in plastic bag use and if this does not happen voluntarily, then they want to see a bag tax. This was spectacularly effective in Eire where a price per bag of 10 pence was introduced and a 95% reduction in use was achieved. This serves to emphasise that a resource is usually squandered if it is free and easily available but if it has a price, it is valued more greatly.
It is easy to see, when we visit some supermarkets, that although bags have been removed from the holders at the end of the conveyor belts with the intention that shoppers must ask if they need a bag, assistants are now placing opened bags out for customer use. Please remember to take your own bags with you and let’s try to end the use of plastic bags completely.