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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

For a while, it seemed that the free plastic bag ban was working. The use of plastic bags fell dramatically, but there's bad news for the planet as campaigners say that this is not enough as too many people have simply accepted paying 10p for the plastic-heavy bag for life when they go shopping rather than taking a shopping bag or trolley or even, you know, re-using the last bag for life that they bought (is the clue in the name perhaps?).

Using two Green Lanes supermarkets as an example, Iceland’s sales of such bags rose tenfold in the past 12 months while Tesco increased its sales from 430 million to 713 million. 

What's fuelling this rise?

One problem is the "food to go" lunch option which is highly lucrative to supermarkets, often bought by the busy people of the city, I guess.

Another is that the thicker bags are simply too cheap. 10p is not enough of a deterrent. What would be? £1?

Or UK supermarkets simply not supplying plastic bags but substituting brown paper bags like they have in supermarkets in the USA?

Or maybe providing nothing at all, as has happened to me on holiday in France, just after their plastic bag ban, when I had to beg for a cardboard box from a spectacularly unimpressed cashier as the queue built up behind us ( I made sure I had my bag next time, so the disdain helped). 

The nudge of a charge wasn't enough.

Time for a massive shove?

Read more here

Further reading: Plastic pollution: 'mission to eradicate' plastic in canals

Tags for Forum Posts: nature notes, plastic pollution

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Too many. I think it was Budgens in Crouch End a few years ago that allowed you to leave plastic bags there for other shoppers to use, that was at least a step in the right direction. I never undestand why they didn't use brown paper bags like in NY, probably because you would only buy essentials you need, whereas they want you to do big shops. like a plastic bag of apples rather than 1 or 2.  Its a disgrace how much non essential plastic we have to put up with

I'm afraid to tell you that the paper bags are far far worse for the environment than plastic ones. Their manufacturing environmental impact is higher and their chance of reuse is significantly lower.

Yes, you're correct. I guess ultimately we're all effed whatever we choose. 

Ha. I'm not sure i'd go that far but maybe you're right!

I'm not a fan of plastic bags (is anyone?) but they've become the simplified scapegoat for something much more complex. 

The truth is that plastic (and paper) bags is a drop (or perhaps plastic bag?!) in the ocean of the challenges facing the environment. 

Just to be clear, I'm not advocating doing nothing!

We’re not though Ben. There is still time to reverse a lot of the damage we are doing but it will take a change that most people think is too much effort. However, I’m an optimist and I believe we can change people’s perceptions on this.

Measured against thin single use plastic, paper bags need to be used 3 times or more to make them less environmentally damaging, which can sometimes be difficult as they are often less durable. However against thick plastic, which needs to be used at least 4 times, then they are better. A cotton bag takes the most energy to make and has to be used 131 times. I’d say most of us shop more than 131 times a year?

The point about our use of bags is not which one is best but total behaviour change. We need to consume less single-use plastic, plastic is not a renewable resource but it is a wonderful material used correctly, and a plastic bag used several times and then disposed of responsibly is not a cause for guilt. Our problem is that people are still treating bags that are meant to be used a number of times as single-use and buying them every time they go to the supermarket. I see it all the time at Iceland. We all pop into a shop without a bag from time to time (and come out with tins and packets  crammed into handbags and pockets in my case) but mostly we know we are going to the shops  so what is so hard about preparing a little beforehand by picking up bags:  cotton, plastic, paper or even, if driving to a big supermarket, keeping a couple of boxes in the boot. And yes, bags, cups, straws, disposable cutlery are all just the tip of a melting iceberg, and what people need to face is that the way of life that they have got used to in less than a hundred years, and in the case of cups probably the last 20 years (I’m old enough to remember when no one bought takeaway coffee and the use of the thermos flask was widespread) is killing the planet but we have to start somewhere and weaning people off single-use plastic is a start.


I think plastic in the seas is a far greater problem than the carbon footprint of manufacturing paper bags.  Paper bags are reused in the sense that people discard their rubbish in them and they do then decompose.  I think that is far preferable.  I try to carry a tote with me, but I often forget.  But my own behaviour has definitely improved.  I won't use a bag at all if I'm just getting milk and bread from the corner shop, for example, and they don't charge for bags so it's not just about the cost but the awareness. 

Then I'm sorry to say, you misunderstand. 

The point about the environmental impact is that paper bags are overall more damaging for the environment - the calculation includes decomposing, impact on the environment (e.g. ending up in the sea) and so on.

So yes, a plastic bag doesn't decompose and that's rubbish (pardon the pun). And a plastic bag might needlessly end up in the sea and kill fish which is also needless and crap. But making a paper bag takes (literally) bucketloads of water that also kills fish by taking it from their environment etc. And making a paper bag takes chemicals that damage the environment more than a plastic bag in landfill or the ocean. 

So sure, a paper bag decomposing is better than it not decomposing. But the damage was worse in making it in the first place!

This says it much better than I can: https://1bagatatime.com/learn/paper-bags/

I always want to ask the people in my queue as they grab a dozen bags, why didnt you bring back the ones you bought last time? You must have planned to come here and most of you have driven. Has anyone done such a survey? 

I have a handful of those parachute-fabric bags that fold down to nothing and they just live in my bag and coat pockets. How difficult is it? 

I have two. One I have at work and it contains all my toiletries for when I shower at work (after the gym or a run, three times a week). And one I feel terribly guilty about getting from Tesco a couple of weeks ago. I might switch that to hold my toiletries as the work one is falling apart.

I usually carry shopping in Envirosax or a backpack.

I've got several - most of them date back to the days when M & S gave them away (ancient history for some).  The prize one however is a Tesco bag for life that dates back to 1999 and is still  going strong.  That really is a 'Bag for Life'. 



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