And so the carrier bag charge hits England. We now pay, with some (okay many and confusing) exceptions, 5p for a lightweight carrier bag.
As someone who always brings his own reusable bags to the supermarket I have mixed feelings on this. As a committed, old-school environmentalist (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) if the charge leads to a reduction in the thoughtless use of plastic carrier bags and tilts the population to more sustainable solutions, then instinctively I approve. Wasteful consumption, especially of the harmful and avoidable type, like plastic carrier bags, needs to be reduced. I want dolphins to swim free. Who doesn't?
But as a libertarian, I note sadly the demise of 'nudge' and the rise of 'compulsion'. What do I mean by this? Well - and I hate to keep using my TESCO Clubcard points as an example, petty I know, but illustrative - formerly supermarkets used to give you 'green' points on their loyalty schemes. I used to get a Clubcard point every time I reused my own bag. With the charge, this has now gone.
The shift has been to sanction force from the state to change behaviour. This to me is always a regrettable and last ditch policy option. Doubly so when, as I have done, you research the genesis of the carrier bag charge. It was sanctioned by a statutory instrument in Parliament this year, enabled by The Climate Change Act 2008 and, depressingly, mandated by an EU Directive from 1994 which dictated that all states must have a plastic bag charge by 2018.
It's sad that the UK Parliament has become a branch office of a larger supranational body. Sad also that the good angels of our behaviour can't be trusted to do the right thing. Supermarkets have for a while offered plastic bag recycling, in fact, all stretchy plastic recycling. Who knew? Why don't local authorities do this? It's not just bags; packaging is often plastic intensive and just ends up in landfill.
So - two cheers for the inevitable outcome (all studies show that plastic bag usage goes down after charges are introduced). One cheer deducted for the method - more costs / regulation and lazy human nature for forcing this action.
Not all environmentalists are lefties!
(BTW - the best reusable bags I have are the colourful ones I bought in France at Super U a few years ago. Strong, long-lasting and very stylish! See them modelled above by, well, me.)