Ban all Bristol retailers from providing plastic shopping bags

The Problem:

Plastic bags are an environmental nightmare.

What the Solution is NOT:

This is not a proposal to suggest that retail outlets can’t give customers shopping bags, or that they must charge customers for bags.

What the Solution IS (well, a small part of it):

It is a proposal to make retailers accountable. Retailers in Bristol should only be permitted to offer customers their choice of biodegradable bag, strong recycled paper bag, or, if customers provide their own bags, give them a small discount on their shop. Or a points credit. Or whatever benefit the shop can come up with. Fine them if they continue to offer customers plastic bags.

Why the contribution is important

In the UK billions of plastic bags are given away every year by supermarkets & shops. There was a big fuss about plastic bags a few years ago, and while this might have resulted in some small changes with a few retail outlets now charging trivial amounts for them, there has not been enough change to constitute a major step forward in our attitudes and behaviour.

Plastic takes up to 1000 years to break down, and does not – repeat, does not - biodegrade. Plastic bags only photo degrade, which means they break up into increasingly smaller bits. This ends up polluting our soil, waterways and seas, and contaminates the food chain when ingested by animals. Plastic bags cause death to marine animals such as turtles, birds and mammals. They are also a considerable problem as wind- borne rubbish.

There is simply no excuse for the “one use” plastic bag. How much longer are we going to sit around and do almost nothing while plastic continues to accumulate in and poison our environment? How much longer are we going to say to retailers that it’s ok for them not to take responsibility? And, on the consumer side, how much longer are we going to take the easy option, just because we are too lazy or just can’t be bothered to provide our own reusable bags? How hard is it to stick a cloth bag into your rucksack /handbag / car boot so you’re always ready for that impulse buy or grocery shop?

Plastic bags are like cigarettes. There is no such thing as a good one.

Come on, George. It’s time to ban them altogether in Bristol. It’s perfectly clear that most retail outlets – particularly the supermarkets – are not going to do this. They’re too afraid of losing custom to the competition. They’ve had plenty of time to do this on a voluntary basis, and they’ve failed. So now it’s time to get tough.

No retail outlet at all in Bristol should be allowed to provide plastic bags, whether for the weekly shop, an item of clothing, or a packet of pills. All Bristol’s retail outlets that provide shopping bags should be required to provide only bags that are fully biodegradable. Let’s get more people into the habit of carrying their own reusable bags. It’s not the answer to the whole problem of plastic, but it’d be a good start.

JDI. In time for 2015, when the eyes of Europe will be on us.

 

 

by jseymour on December 20, 2013 at 12:08PM

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Comments

  • Posted by kichigo December 20, 2013 at 19:02

    Yes! Totally agree! They've been banned in France for so many years already. I think there's a move afoot to follow the example of Wales and ban them in England. It wasn't going to apply to smaller retailers, but their trade association begged to be included. This is an idea whose time has come!
  • Posted by Ilapraik December 20, 2013 at 22:21

    If you've ever been to the Middle East you see everywhere trees festooned with blue plastic bags. They are a blight. I think we should be moving back to paper bags or the good old fashioned reusable cloth shopping bag.
  • Posted by Cevans December 21, 2013 at 16:04

    In Egypt along the road side across the White Dessert there is a plastic bag stuck on All of the boulders
    Lets start with BRIZZLE !!
  • Posted by Aethelbald January 01, 2014 at 19:11

    There three main themes here:

    1. Plastic bags as a litter nuisance
    2. Plastic as an environmental hazard
    3. Does proper use protect the planet

    The first is a training and morale issue. Look around Bristol. Plastic bags on the street indicate social deprivation, poor morale. Getting rid of plastic bags would hide that deprivation. Then us posh people could imagine that getting rid of plastic bags fixed social deprivation.

    The second is a really big deal, but not all biodegradable plastics are safe:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodegradable_plastic

    In fact, it is not clear that any biodegradable plastics are environmentally safe, except maybe the starch-based ones like cellophane and Rayon. The science is not yet in the bag, so to speak. But Rayon looks interesting:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rayon

    The third thing is that I'm wearing a plastic bag, called a pullover, that frequently sheds fibres into the environment with unknown consequences. Is that OK because it's multi-use? Does that really stand up as an argument?

  • Posted by Aethelbald January 01, 2014 at 19:42

    Further to my previous comment, here's what looks to stand up as proof that plastic that is eaten at the low end of the food chain can appear in the flesh further up the food chain.

    http://plasticsoupfoundatio[…]to-Carcinus-maenas-L.-2.pdf

    This issue is really important. Fixing plastic bags will not fix this issue.
  • Posted by colinnoakes January 03, 2014 at 20:18

    Recently, my employer with the help of a group of our younger graduates, held a Sustainability week, of which part of this was to provide all employees with a recylcable company-Branded bag. I haven't used mine yet, but if this kind of scheme as suggested was introduced Bristol-wide to all retailers then I may use the bag supplied to myself. Perhaps, each retailer could provide customers with their own recyclable branded bag, it would be good for marketing said organisations.
  • Posted by jseymour January 06, 2014 at 20:57

    As I said, Aethelbald, this is not THE solution to the problem of plastics: it is only a start. But we have to start somewhere, and eliminating needless one-off use is one of the good places where we can make such a start.

    And I think you patronise so-called "posh" people (whoever they are) when you say they would be so facile as to think social deprivation didn't exist if there was less plastic rubbish visible in socially deprived areas. You patronise "the socially deprived" (your dichotomy, not mine) by assuming that they should live in litter strewn areas as a visible marker of their social deprivation. Do "socially deprived" people find living in litter strewn circumstances more tolerable than "posh" people? I doubt it.
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