The carrier-bag tax rears its head again…

A poorly-informed Guardian hack is getting her knickers in a twist over the problem of “plastic bags” when what she actually means is “plastic carrier bags”. And yes, dear, there is a difference. We all know it, why don’t you?

The problem with a plastic carrier bag – not plastic bags per se – charge is that it will be widely perceived as yet another tax levied on the poor by this toxic and corrupt government. So who gets the money?

And why do I say the hack is poorly informed? Mainly because she goes on to say this: “Plastic bags are a plague, and we do not need them.”. That’s an extremely narrow-minded viewpoint and simply isn’t true – some of us actually DO need them.

Being housebound, I get my groceries delivered. Unless I want the delivery person to dump a mound of loose items at my door, carrier bags are essential. There is no provision, nor can I see how there possibly could be, for using my own bags as I would if I could shop in person. And yes, thank you, I do know that Ocado/Waitrose will take their bags back but, because of their robustness, I actually find them useful.

There is an alternative – the delivery person could bring my stuff in and stack it on the kitchen worktop (or even put it away for me. This option is part of the deal, but I don’t take advantage of it because, if everybody did, the delivery system would grind to a halt.

I would, therefore, object strenuously to a carrier-bag levy when their use is unavoidable (plus every bag I get is reused, not simply thrown away), on top of the often (Sainsbury’s and Ocado/Waitrose), extortionate delivery charge.

In my home plastic carriers are not the problem. The sheer volume of empty drug blister packs, which can’t be recycled as foil is welded to plastic, which in my case amounts to a carrier-bag, tightly packed, every 10 days or so, is far more of a problem, and there are a hell of a lot of very sick people in the land disposing of similar, or greater, amounts of crap, but I never see anyone bitching about that.

A return to dispensing tablets and capsules in bottles would solve the problem.

Er, yes, I do know why blister packs are used – people can be moronic, though most of us aren’t, I hope, and leave bottles uncapped, causing the drugs to deteriorate or even, in some cases, become toxic if they get damp or otherwise contaminated; I dare say there are other reasons, too. Then there are glass drug bottles to dispose of (codeine linctus and Oramorph). Once these could be returned to the pharmacy for re-use. Then we went to single-use plastic bottles (also for tabs and caps**), and now we have single-use glass bottles, probably because it’s cheaper and less hassle than recycling.

**Currently, out of  my 19 drugs, only 3 come in plastic bottles or tubs (and another three are inhalers).

Also a greater problem than carrier bags, at least in my home, is the amount of extraneous food packaging that has to be disposed of. As with drugs, there’s an easy fix at the packaging stage – use less.

But, back to my first point – who DOES get the revenue from a carrier-bag tax?

By the way – I don’t recycle. I simply don’t have the room for the multiple containers needed for the separation of crap. As for composting, forget it – playing host to a bucket of festering food waste** is never going to happen! If you want me to recycle, give me a kitchen that’s much bigger than my current one, which is about the size of a king-size bed! Or better yet, give me a shed. For my views on the subject, see this post and this one.

**The amount of food waste I generate is vanishingly small, as what can’t be eaten quickly is frozen. Of the 3 litres of Lamb and Cannellini Beans with Dates and  Harissa (stunningly good), I made last week, I ate one portion, and another 5 are in the freezer.

NB: You’ll find a slightly shorter version of this in the Guardian article’s comments. Not plagiarism – I’m LePendu.


5 thoughts on “The carrier-bag tax rears its head again…

  1. The carrier bag charge is going ahead up here sometime soon. We use them waste bin liners, so are recycling them. Once the charge of 5p per bag comes in, we’ll switch to buying ‘proper’ bin liners. Still a plastic bag

    Tesco was handing out free cloth bags at the weekend, in preparation of the charge coming in.

    As you rightly say, it’s the amount of packaging that food comes in that needs to be tackled, and urgently in my opinion.

    And yes, blister packs fill a carrier bag here too.

    • Forgot – I have two bags of nurses’ waste a week here, too. We’re not supposed to put medical waste in the refuse, it’s supposed to be separately stored and then collected and taken to the incinerator, but no-one seems to care.

  2. The 5p charge as it was implemented in Wales was a total pain in the backside. The bags that most shopkeepers chose to use were so thin and flimsy they would rip with something light inside them. There were rules about what could go into a “free” bag as well. Unwrapped food might win you a free and crappy plastic carrier bag, but if you bought underwear, unless you paid the 5p, you would have to carry your knickers around with no bag.

    I was told that the shopkeepers could choose the charity that the 5p went to. I have no idea if any was nipped off of the 5p before it got to the charities. The shops I went into had chosen the RNLI and the Helicopter mountain rescue charity (can’t remember the name) so I didn’t object to that part. If the money had been going to say, the RSPCA I would have forgone my purchase and left the shop.

    The extra food packaging drives me mad. Apart from making some things bloody hard to open, it’s just pointless and does little to protect the food contained therein. I buy all veg from either the farm shop or the one decent greengrocers we have left, which is 5 miles away. I would like to see things without wrapping a bit cheaper, but the prices are still high, but not as high as the supermarkets generally.

    The last time I took a shed load of unused drugs back to a chemist, I was treated as if I’d dumped a bag full of excrement on the counter. The medicines were my Mum’s, she didn’t hoard them, but had so many medication changes that things built up. After she died I took everything back to the local chemist. I didn’t want shed loads of opiates and benzos in the house. The shop assistant made a huge fuss about drugs that they hadn’t dispensed from that chemist and if huffing were an Olympic sport, she’d have won gold. She also assumed that the drugs were mine, so I got a massive lecture on how I should only order what I needed. It was enjoyable to ask her in front of a shop full of people to actually read the labels and see that the name on them wasn’t mine.

    • Legally, only a remarkably small percentage of charitable donations have to get to the charity. If memory serves, it’s about 10%.

      If anyone out there knows the actual percentage, please show me – don’t just tell me as that might be no more reliable than my memory!

      If I were to shop at my local independents – and there have been times when I’ve had to – my food bill would go up by between 30% and 50% – and the quality would plummet. That supermarkets are more expensive and lower quality than indies is mostly a fallacy – competition is so intense it drives prices down if anything. Even Waitrose/Ocado mirrors Tesco pricing.

      In a major metropolitan area, like London, for example, where competition for pretty much anything in the indie food marketplace is quite high, it apparently drives down food prices, and ramps up service, if what weekend newspaper cookery pages say is true, but where I live that just doesn’t happen.

  3. We’ll have to disagree about quality and price. I find veg and fruit bought in supermarkets to be very poor and overpriced. The one exception to that is Lidl, where they do seem to have much better quality produce and it’s cheaper than the mainstream supermarkets.

    The farm shop is more expensive than the greengrocers. The farm shop is quite big and also relies on tourists in the summer. They have other attractions there so pull in a lot of people in the summer. The greengrocer has a few shops around the local towns, so I’d guess they can afford to price things lower than any corner shop could because they can buy in bigger quantities

    The minimum amount a charity had to actually put into charitable work per £1 donated used to be a shockingly low 7%. The rest could be written off to operating costs. You know the sort of thing charity CEOs with a salary over £100,000 pa.

    I’ve just had a look on the Charity Commission’s website where this info used to be in easily accessible form. Somewhere on there you can find the information. My brain has given up

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