Thursday, 19 April 2012

Cotton bag is the new shopping bag

Statics have shown that governments can put pressure on customers’ environmental responsibility by charging for nonreusable plastic bags 

by Ngalula Beatrice Kabutakapua 

Majority of plastic bags become litter. Photo by Ngalula Beatrice Kabutakapua.

Camden Town in London is a famous location for everything punk. But when going there, among the platform shoes, tattoos and heavy metal t-shirt, I opt for buying some chewing gums. As I make my way to the counter I already figured the gums will end up in my pocket shortly after paying. But the sales assistant surprises me and takes out a plastic bag twenty times bigger than my humble pack of chewing gums. And that’s before I could even say “I don’t need a bag thanks.” 

Shops would give you a plastic bag for almost everything, from a one centimeter package of chewing gum to a foldable t-shirt. You could easily say that the bags acts as a walking advert of the commercial but also, they contain your goods. But how long does a shopping bag really live? 

We transport pasta, some milk,maybe few fruits in the plastic bags for like 20 minutes. If we put in something of the weight of a watermelon, after 10 minutes the bag is possibly broken. Then there’s no alternative that to dump it, at worse in the street, at best somewhere in the house. 

On average we need 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags every year, as to say one to two plastic bags for each European citizen. Although they can be reused in different ways, nonreusable plastic bags often end up in landfills and litter where it takes centuries for them to decompose. 

The Welsh government in the UK has recently found a way to overcome the problem and to make citizens more responsible. Starting from October 2011, to purchase any kind of plastic bags, customers have to pay £5p (€0,06) more than their normal shopping. 

Major companies like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer put their plastic bags away, as if they were hiding chocolate from a kid that already ate too much of it. 

In April, the major retail groups released figures that show the use of plastic bags in Wales has dropped by 90% in the six months since the legislation came into force. 

Somehow Wales is arriving late on this idea, which was already developed by Ireland - that introduced the tax in 2002 - Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. But the success of the initiative is putting pressure on the rest of the UK and the EU to reduce the use of non-reusable plastic bags. 

Cotton bags are sometimes used as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic. Photo by  Ngalula Beatrice  Kabutakapua

With plastic bags becoming a commodity, people don’t go around carrying oranges in their hands, or bottles of wine stuffed in their tiny purses. A valid alternative adopted by many are cotton reusable bags. For once they can be used many times, they are being produced in the most creative designs, they are easy to carry and hardly harm the environment.

Having one is quite easy as you would most probably get it by attending a conference. Supermarkets are selling cotton or reusable bags as well. For the most creative, there’s always the chance to make one of your own out of an old t-shirt or by knitting.


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