Modbury in Devon was the little trailblazer and now all 33 Boroughs have got together to ask us the big question: should the plastic shopping bag be banned in London?
The stats are pretty shocking. We really do take placcy bags for granted. Over 13 billion bags are issued to shoppers each year which works out at at least 220 per person in the UK although, it actually feels a lot more to us. Unfortunately, only about 1 in every 200 are recycled so billions are sent to landfill every year. Where they sit about for around 400 years. Marine life also suffers from our penchant for mindlessly chucking out plastics: Up to a million sea birds and over 100,000 mammals (including whales, seals and turtles) are thought to be killed or injured each year from accidentally ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic (much of which is from plastic bags).
What we have here is a big problem with a simple solution. Stop issuing throw away shopping bags. Switch to environmentally friendly, reusable alternatives.
Of course, this involves a fundamental change in our approach to shopping. We'll all get caught short on occasion if the plastic bag is banished but, at a time when all of us are increasingly aware of and affected by climate change and other environmental issues, the banning of the throw away shopping bag seems a feasible proposal that we can all support - with little detrimental effect to our lifestyles - and may well lead to a more general change in attitudes towards consumerism and the throwaway culture we've got so inured to.
London Councils propose several alternatives including targeting only major retailers, applying a levy to retailers or shoppers, banning only plastic bags (and allowing paper) or doing nothing at all but surely we should take the bull by the horns and go for the outright ban? Be an early adopter. Dig out your Nana's string bag, the crumpled "Bag for Life" or delve into that store of 500 squished up old supermarket carriers and show that this is a no-brainer.
While you're thinking about it, check out some novel ways to reuse plastic bags.
Image courtesy of Megandavid's Flickrstream.