Plastic Bags - The End Is Nigh

  • Julia Gash
  • 14th September 2013

Today the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, announced that British shoppers would be charged 5p for every plastic bag they take at the check out.  The policy is aimed to discourage the use of plastic carrier bags, which pollute the environment and are responsible for the deaths of marine and wildlife.  

As an eco-bag enthusiast this is obviously a good news day for me.  Like Nick, I believe that the 5p charge will make people stop and think before taking them so readily.  Not so long ago I was behind a man in a queue at my local mini Morrisons when he bought a packet of cigarettes and insisted on taking a plastic bag despite the fact that he really did not need it to carry his new, little purchase home.  

Because they are so freely available it makes us lazy and stops us thinking of a sustainable alternative. As someone who runs an eco-friendly bag business I've been a convert for many years and have always got one stuffed in my handbag, a couple in the car, one or two under my desk at work and a couple on my coatstand at home.  I'm never far away from a cotton tote and so it's relatively easy for me to say no to plastic when flexing my other plastic!

So I'm glad that we're coming to the end of our free entitlement to plastic bags. They haven't actually been with us for very long (around half a century) and some of us are old enough to remember life before plastic!  We got our tins of beans safely home before plastic bags existed and we certainly will find an another way of transporting them in the future.  You can of course stump up the 5 pence each time you pick up a plastic bag but recessionistas, fashionistas and green gurus will no doubt pass.

The vast array of canvas totes or jute hampers, created as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags has spun into an amazingly creative industry that provides much needed skilled employment in developing countries as well as revitalising manufacturing at home.  At BIDBI we employ many young men at our eco-print factory in Sheffield, where we have taken long term youth out of employment and trained them into Master Printers.

Artists have applied their talents to canvas for centuries and the humble tote is no different.  We've brought together a handful of designers as an ethically focussed, creative bag-art collaboration called Talented Totes.  I love Jitesh Patel's Tote Bag Blog, which unveils a new designer each week.  The Observer has long hailed it as the new IT bag.

So getting rid of plastic bags is good for the environment, good for the economy and good for creative spirits like me!