Green Flash 51: Say No to Plastic Bags!

Charges are on their way
Charge for thin plastic bags will come into force in October 2015 in England. Let’s start changing habits now!

In Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland where the charge is already in the reduction is over 70%. However, while the experience has been successful, in Northern Ireland, people are now buying too many thick plastic ‘bags for life’ and not reusing them, so there will be a further charge on these.

In England, while there will be a charge at supermarkets, there will probably be exemptions for small businesses, bio-degradable bags and paper bags.

The environmental case
Plastic bags endanger wildlife, create litter, block water courses, pollute the oceans and create landfill.

Tips to reduce the use of plastic bags
Here are some tips to reduce your use of plastic bags:

  • Always carry a re-usable cloth style bag and decline plastic bags whenever offered
  • Use newspaper to wrap food waste in rather than use the biodegradable bags
  • Use re-usable and washable plastic containers instead of disposable plastic bags to store food and pack lunches

Behavioural change important
Radio 4 programme, ‘You and Yours’ explained that behavioural change is at the heart of reducing plastic bag usage. If you stand outside any supermarket or small store today you will see that the majority of shoppers will have accepted a plastic bag for their purchases.

The solution is anticipation. First, carry your reusable bag at all times – this could be in your coat pocket, hand bag or man bag, cycle panniers or even in the car. Consider putting one in every location from where you might set off to shop. Second, take into the shop the number of reusable bags you might need for your shop.

Which are the best reusable bags?
Reusability is key rather than calculating the energy and environmental cost of the manufacture of the reusable bag. The UK currently uses 8.3 billion plastic bags per year so if we went down to one each, and they lasted 4 years that would be approximately a 97% reduction.

The supermarkets will have their own promotions and Tesco sold a very light and small one at Christmas that folds down to a tiny Father Christmas hat which is fun.

Everyone has their favourite but you might like to consider:

Make your own: Why not use an old sheet or curtain to make your own Morsbags for friends and family – each one has the potential to eliminate 100s of plastic bags over its lifetime. They are easy and fun to make. Just follow the instructions:

Footprint Bag – the reusable shopping bag pack Footprint say that their bags are strong, robust, bigger, good design, eco-friendly and have a trolley coin attached and are available as a single bag or multipack bag.

String bags in different colours: Organic short handle string bags in a number of colours

Bags made from RPET – Post consumer bottles are collected from recycling plants and spun into yarn. From this yarn comes the fabric that makes the bag or a bag that turns into a rucksac.

The DRARA Environment Action Group aims to support practical ways of reducing energy use and promote environmentally friendly lifestyles.   For suggestions for further Green Flashes or further information about the Environment Action Group, please contact: Anna on

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