Rimmer : That's eight lemons, Can we have a bag ?
Kryten: This is 23 A.D, sir. The dawn of civilisation. The Bag hasn't been invented yet.
Cat: Really ? So what did they do instead ?
Kryten: They dropped things.
Red Dwarf series X : Lemons
The plastic bag tax is a tax on a problem that has long since disappeared. Its a policy plucked from the bottom of the box of easy to introduce, cheap, sounds good when you say it, niggley but not vote losing, time wasting bills that governments dig around in when they have no ideas left.
Whatever..its a stupid idea. An annoying imposition that raises a bit than more bugger all in tax and achieves a littleless than bugger all too.
When CU was a whippersnapper, fresh from university, he worked for one of the pioneering green, recyclable manufacturing plastics companies just then setting up in the Eurozone.
And, as he tells it, no one was remotely interested.
Not supermarkets. Not governments. Not business. Not manufacturers. Nor shipping, waste management, factories, household, leisure, transport .. No one wanted to try and sell £5 rolls of bin bags when a bin bag roll retail price was just .75p.
No shops wanted to INCREASE their own cost of carrier bags that they were giving away free from 0.06p to 16p.
Only Hippies and green politicians were impressed. And they weren't that impressed.
Move on 15-20 years and its a different story.
Recycling is the norm. Its the law! Its drummed into every toddler by the eco-school teachers.
The big corporations, coming under threat from their customers about causing melting ice-caps, or the coming ice-age, or ozone ending callousness decided to think again and embrace green ideas. At first in spin. Then in practice too. Because they discovered that amazingly there was money in it!
The prosperity of the 1990's allowed the 'organic' 'fair-trade' 'offsetting carbon footprints' and 'handcrafted' markets to flourish.
It was a boom and people felt happy spending a little of their wealth to assuage some of the guilt for being a first world consumer and earning more in a day's house price rise than a Guatemalan would in a year.. A Sting CD was a small price to pay for a new CD player. A jar of foul tasting coffee a small price to pay for a guilt free new espresso machine for one.
These were the Blair years- The anti-Thatcherite 'caring' Nineties and Millennium were all the rage.
Time to feel good about yourself. But not too good.
If Organic foods and carbon offsets have largely been eradicated by the long, long recession and the unfriendly face of realism, the attitudes the boom times fostered have remained.
For instance, the plastic bags themselves.
These are no longer the mighty heavy plastic heavyweights that you could hang a hoover on the back of your door hook with. The 20 micron bags that you actually had to use force to fold. These are flimsy constructs that barely make it from the trolley to the car boot.
Bags are made from 100% or very near 100% recyclable materials now.
The 1000 year bag, always a bit of a dubious claim, is even more unlikely now. A bag in your cupboard falls apart all by itself over a fairly short time.
Boxes are not wrapped in plastic before delivery to the supermarket. If you've seen a delivery being unloaded then you've seen the very small amounts of plack-wrap used today. Less packaging all round. The oil price, so the plastics price, and the profits squeeze has already made businesses reduce any costs all along the line.
The plastic sheeting that was seen all over the countryside stuck in trees and hedges is also largely absent. I don't know what farmers use now but they too must have been affected by the same market forces and sought alternatives.
Reusable bags for life or clip-on bags are available everywhere. In fashionable designs and colours instead of the drab oatmeal smug piousness of the originals. They can be found nestling in the back of any vehicle you care you care to look in. Plastic bag holders are available on key chains. In umbrella handles. In purses, etc.
And, if anyone still goes to shops, you will notice that a plastic bag is no longer automatically offered.
In the old days a store bag was
1} for advertising. So dishing out as many as possible was encouraged by bosses
2} a visual security check. Anyone leaving with items not in a bag was unlikely to have paid for those items.
But today the usual question is " Do you need/require a bag today?" - The inference clearly being that you don't.
We at BQi purchased a load of bags 8 years ago when our supplier went bust. I estimated that quantity should last us 2 years.. We still have around 20% of them left, eight years on. Because bag usage has collapsed.
Its the customer who decides if they want a bag and if they don't, which is the norm, then they say so.
"Sainsbury’s says it has seen the use of free carrier bags drop significantly in the last six months, in favour of longer-life, re-usable bags.
Use of disposable bags has dropped by 10% compared with last year, while sales of re-usable bags have soared by 44%."That was from 2007.
So this tax is going to fall squarely on the people who are buying goods for which there is a need for a bag.
Its a stupid tax. A petty, pathetic tax that tries to address a problem that has long been solved.
Solved mostly by consumers, environmental pressure, market forces and best practice.
Politicians wade in.. 15 years too late..
Which is a shame for the young CityUnslicker. He could have been a multi-multi millionaire by now if the politicians had got their act together when it actually mattered.