Friday, 16 October 2015

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

We can all agree that plastic bags are evil, right? They are not biodegradable and can remain in landfills for hundreds if not thousands of years. They litter our landscapes.  They find their way into our oceans and are swallowed by animals such as turtles who die a slow and painful death as it prevents them from eating. But there is a solution, right?

BYOB. Bring your own bag. Simple as that. You can have a string bag or a heavy duty bag for life from your local shop or a jute bag or a beautiful bag up-cycled from a pair of old curtains (my personal favourite) --the point is JUST BRING A BAG.

How about charging 5p per plastic bag as an incentive to bring your own?

I am proud to say that Wales was the first country in the UK to do so. We have been charging 5p per plastic bag since 2011, thank you very much.  And what was the result? a 71% drop in plastic bag usage in the first year alone.

Northern Ireland and Scotland followed suit in 2013 and 2014, respectively. And what happened? The same as Wales. They saw a significant drop in plastic bag usage.

So what in the hell has happened to the people of England?

They've gone mad, the lot of them.

A month ago I was working in the shop when a holiday-maker from England regaled me of her outrage that a shop dared to try and swindle her out of 5p for a bag. When I asked if she would like a bag for her purchase she said:

Her: Are you going to charge me for it?"
Me:  We use environmentally friendly paper bags and so we don't need to charge.
Her: Well I was just at Debenhams and I was buying a pair of shoes for £45 and they had the *nerve* to expect me to pay 5p for a bag. (by now she was practically foaming at the mouth like a mad dog and shouting much to her husband's embarrassment) I told them that I wasn't going to pay 5p on top of £45 so they could get stuffed. I wanted a refund immediately for the shoes. 
Me: So you didn't buy the shoes?
Her: Hell no! They weren't going to swindle me out of 5p. How dare they! 
Me: (thinking) Don't go mad--whoops, too late.

I tried to explain that it was the law here, but she was having none of it. I thought it was a one-off crazy reaction, but apparently not.

October saw the 5p plastic bag charge hit England and the shit hit the fan. People went mental. They didn't care that the number of plastic bags at the 7 major supermarkets rose by 200 million in 2014 exceeding the previous year's unbelievable figure of  7.6 billion bags. This is equal to 140 bags per person  or 61,000 tonnes of waste. 

They didn't care. They just weren't going to part with their 5p.

Now instead of making people outraged about the 5p charge and spurring it on to bring their own, it had the opposite effect.

People stole trolleys.
People got banned from shops for effing and blinding and swearing over paying for a bag.
People were stealing bags by the handful and now some shops have had to electronically tag their plastic bags and trolleys.
People got into a fist fight with shop security in a car park when trying to make off with a trolley.

Seriously? This is England? Losing their mind over 5p? You would spend more than that on a lottery ticket and a packet of fags (cigarettes to my American peeps) but you won't spend 5p on a bag because you can't be arsed to bring your own bag.

I am *so* glad I live in Wales where things are more civilized.

Grow up England and stop being such a  titty-baby.


  1. You might need to explain to your American peeps that a trolley is a shopping cart or buggy.

    My personal favorite bag to bring is also a lovely one upcycled from a pair of old curtains.

    I can't even imagine the outrage that 5 cents charge per plastic bag would cause over here on the other side of the Atlantic! Shudder!

    1. oh yeah, even though it's more obvious, American Peeps, a car park is a parking lot.