bunn (bunn) wrote,

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Plastic Bags

Nice to see that Modbury has banned the plastic bag: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1717476.ece

Or at least the local traders have anyway, and ISTR that Modbury has no supermarket.

However, all this fuss about carrier bags - all very well, but. It's the usual thing: make a big fuss about something that people can feel guilty about and they can buy a cotton bag and feel they are Making A Difference.

Yet every week we get bags and bags and bags delivered to our house containing unrequested mail order catalogues, leaflets, and other marketing materials. I actually recorded what was going into our bins for a couple of weeks, and the single largest amount of plastic by a long way was the wrappings from these unsolicited mailings. Of course we recycle the contents, but the energy involved in printing and sending all this stuff must be enormous, and you can't recycle the bags.
You can't even re-use them as they have no handles, they aren't clean enough for food, and they usually have little holes in so they aren't suitable as poo-bags*.

My family have always recycled. Well before it was fashionable to do so, we carefully sorted our rubbish and took it to a recycling facility, composted what could be composted, re-used wrapping paper and bags and all the rest. We had solar water heating panels installed back in the 1980s, and were early adopters of the first low-energy lightbulbs. I was paper recycling coordinator for my college. I am not uncommitted to energy efficiency and recycling as a concept.

But increasingly I am convinced that anything that relies on individuals all being careful in their own little way is hugely overshadowed by the massive carbon footprint of the people who will never bother unless the system itself is changed, and it just becomes easier to get it right than to get it wrong.

I strongly suspect that all my careful recyclings over my entire lifetime are as nothing compared to the sheer quantity of plastic wasted by, say Screwfix Direct on one mailing of their endless bloody catalogue. More and more mail order catalogues seem to be appearing: it is annoying when ordering from a website results in promotional emails for evermore, but how much worse is it then you get a pile of paper as well?

The current fuss about fortnightly rubbish collection is a similar thing. There is no reason at all that collecting rubbish fortnightly should mean that there is LESS rubbish overall. Rather than try to force millions of individuals to carefully think through and plan their purchasing decisions and household affairs so that they have less packaging to throw away, why not simply reduce the amount that goes into their houses by addressing the problem of the people who supply the stuff?

The Modbury model is the right one, in that it is led by the traders: it's not yet another attempt to guilt individuals into a huge series of tiny, almost pointless processes. Sadly I suspect that larger businesses will point to it and say 'we can't do that, they are only little, and we are BIG BIG BIG!'

Which may be true, but is no excuse for just sitting around taking the profits and not thinking.

*the environmental impact of poo-bags is something I shall rant about at some other time.

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