I remember a time when you picked up your groceries in paper bags which then went on the fire once you had unpacked them. Those that weren’t burnt degraded quickly and harmlessly. Then we moved into the era of the disposable plastic bag which was perhaps more convenient but did pose an ecological problem because burning them creates toxic smoke so you have to put them in the bin. Unfortunately plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to degrade on a landfill site.
Aware of this problem, some stores have moved back to paper bags or charge for disposable bags and others sell reusable bags but still the disposable bag won’t go away. In fact, in Britain, the use of disposable plastic bags is on the increase – 333million more of them were used last year than in the previous year.
It is likely that the government in Britain will have to step in and create legislation that forces shops to reduce the use of plastic bags possibly by charging more for them.
Taking reusable bags to the supermarket for the groceries is not a problem but are we prepared to take them with us when we shop for clothes etc.? Part of the thrill of shopping for some is being seen with designer carrier bags* – walking down the high street with reusable supermarket bags might not have the same appeal.
* Teenage girls at the school where I worked used to bring their equipment for the day in bags from upmarket shops like Lacoste. In fact they used to go into their favourite shops and ask for them just for this purpose.