Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Making a bags of it

As I write, the environmental tax for plastic bags has been increased to its statutory maximum.

It is part of the blurb from the PR agents of the Department of the Environment that the tax has resulted in something like a 90 percent decrease in use of plastic bags.

I beg to differ. But first, I don't disagree that the tax has resulted in a markedly less appearance of plastic bags as litter. That fact is visibly true.

However, it was part of the hype at the introduction of that tax that it would also result in a lessening of the amount of plastic bags that would end up in landfill.

Not from my household, I have to say.

Sure, there used to be a lot of plastic bags littering the countryside and the streets of our town. Most of them the kind of bags which were provided by our local and regional supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as the nightly droppings from the people frequenting our town's fast food outlets after they'd left the pubs.

I have to say that whatever plastic bags were dropped in that era were probably dumped by the people who do that same thing with paper bags on our streets today (or last night).

And that's the kind of thing that neither the Government or we people of Ireland can legislate for. Litterers are litterers because they know no better. Or because they do and don't care. Probably the latter.

However, let's go back to the claim of the '90 percent drop' in use of plastic bags.

Maybe that's so in terms of bags provided by shops to customers, which is identifiable by the tax which was imposed on such things.

But that doesn't take into account the extra bags which my family -- and presumably many hundreds of thousands of similar families across the country -- have had to buy to line our kitchen bins in the absence of the 'free' bags we used to get from the supermarkets we used.

So, while our relevant Government ministers have politically and eagerly taken the credit for 'reducing' the numbers of plastic bags being used by the people who elected them to their positions, it is arguable that they have got it both ways.

The people who used to drop the bags on the street were always a minority. OK, they don't get those bags anymore. Or they do, and what they pay extra for the privilege is of little consequence to their spending on a six-pack and whatever else goes with it.

To the bottom line. What the ministers who claim the credit for the results of the plastic bag tax don't acknowledge is that those of us who didn't use them to litter now have to pay for what we used to recycle.

The ministers said that it was to reduce plastic bags in landfill. But for those of us who used to always put, and therefore recycle, our 'free' plastic bags into landfill, what's the difference?

The bags that we are now forced to buy, to replace the ones in which we brought home our groceries, are as much a problem to landfill as were what we used to use for free ... and which we never used for littering.

I'm confused. Convince me that I'm wrong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree totally! I am just as confused about the throwing of bags on the street when there is a garbage can every so many feet and well within distance of the shop or car. If this is what they do in the street, I would hate to see inside their homes. What was that you were saying about a "landfill"?