Tuesday 1 October 2013

Politicians – solving yesterday’s problems today

So we will get a plastic bag tax? Wow, big deal!

The sheer quantity of rubbish strewn around our countryside is something that has long annoyed me. Plastic bags being a particular bugbear, some roadways being strewn with them on the verges, some in the hedgerows and often bags flapping around in the trees. Yet in recent years, although the level of litter has not improved, there are fewer plastic bags in evidence. The biggest plastic bag problem has now become dog mess bags, which some dog owners use to collect the poo then for some strange reason use to decorate trees along footpaths.

I tend to avoid using plastic bags in most circumstances but occasionally they are useful, an unplanned purchase or to buy something that could spill like some DIY materials. I then reuse them for a while before finally relegating them to rubbish sacks, especially for ‘dirty’ rubbish in the garage. Yesterday was one occasion, when I went to get a Sunday paper only to have the heavens open with a torrential rainstorm – so I had a plastic bag rather than get home with a block of papier mâché.

Reading the bag was quite instructive. It says that “Over 20% of the material in this biodegradable bag is from a renewable source” It also says it’s recyclable and biodegradable to ISO14855 standard. Well, perhaps that’s not environmentally perfect, but it’s better than most of the packaging around the shop products themselves. If I were to simply throw it away it wouldn’t hang around on my garden hedge for 1000 years.

On getting home I pulled out a few more bags from my garage rubbish stash. Yes, recyclable, yes biodegradable. Next one, yes recyclable and biodegradable. The next one was a French one – Catena, a DIY/houseware shop in Normandy. Recyclable, indeed it is, and biodegradable, with a nice cheerful message explaining how the bag is 100% ‘fragmentable’ by light and heat.

So why do we suddenly now require a plastic bag tax? It’s not as though it will only apply to non-degradable bags and encourage degradable ones – which would make at least some sense. It will of course cause increased use of paper bags – which require more energy to make and are less useful because they are not rainproof. It will increase the sales of manufactured bags for waste bin liners which are thicker, more material and energy intensive and only get used once.

As is all too frequently the case our politicians see a problem late then come up with a solution which we have to pay for and which will make things worse, in this case by failing to promote biodegradability and causing people to adopt more environmentally costly and damaging solutions.


  1. In the Derbyshire countryside, the most common types of litter are plastic bottles and drinks cans. As you say, plastic shopping bags don't appear to be a huge problem these days. We find them useful as bin bags for the caravan.

  2. Government official should help educate people in disposing plastic garbage properly.

  3. Government official should help educate people in disposing plastic garbage properly.

    Placed carefully by the roadside?