Shelagh Fogarty 1pm - 4pm
Saving the planet one bag at a time
8 September 2018, 21:02 | Updated: 8 September 2018, 21:19
The supermarket chain Asda has had to replenish its supply of shopping baskets. Don't worry, they can afford it. It is owned by the Walton family of America. They are the richest family in the richest country on earth.
On top of that, Asda is merging with Sainsburys, whose major shareholder is the Qatari Wealth Fund, the current owners of most of the west of London.
So, they have the cash to buy all the shopping baskets they need, that's not the problem. The problem is that the Earth might not be able to afford it.
You see, the reason that the stores are having to re-stock their receptacle collection is that people are taking them home, instead of buying a 9p bag to put their groceries in.
Let's assume that a person that does that won't bring it back the next time they visit to buy more beige, fried food in boxes, they will just chuck them in a convenient canal, or hedgerow and be done with it.
The only reason that Asda charges for bags is that, after dragging their feet for years, the government decided that we really should use less plastic, by which I mean: throw less plastic away.
The five pence charge for a thin plastic bag was introduced after much humming and hawing and after waiting an age after Ireland led the way.
This was because timid British politicians (T. May) were too scared of any backlash from a furious public to bring in the charge before it had been thoroughly road tested by another, nearby country.
Ireland's experiment was judged a success and after two short years, our government got up the courage to do the same here.
Mountains of poisonous plastic were saved and the world became a better place. For a while.
The charge for forgetting to bring your bags with you was increased from 5p to 9p by Asda but the quality of the bag they offered also increased significantly.
That extra four pence bought you a bag for life – a sturdy offering that could hold your goods all the way home and not fall apart and scatter your treats all over the pavement and under a bus.
Unfortunately, it was that extra 4p that broke the will of the Asda shoppers to do the right thing.
At the checkout, they baulked at having to fork out a whole nine pence for something that was not covered in chocolate and so they simply took home the thing that they had carried their food to the tills in.
This makes perfect sense if you are the sort of person that the rest of us should keelhaul, for the benefit of society.
Talk about not rowing in the same direction – what can you buy for nine pence? You can't even spend a penny for nine pence.
It fair boggles the mind how anyone can be so selfish as to take home a shopping basket. Shopping trolleys cost stores over £100 each, so a basket can't be cheap either.
The cost of these conveniences are, of course, added to everyone's bill. You are paying for a stolen basket, whether you took one or not.
Come on people, we're trying to save the planet here.
The bag charge has had a great effect – 13 billion bags were taken out of circulation in the past two years. Of course, it would have been many more billions had not the government dragged its feet for fear of doing something controversial, but let's not get bogged down in “what ifs”.
Let's look at the way forward, because while 13 billion bags is a lot, it’s not a dent in the Everest sized mounds of plastic that we take home covering our food and then throw straight away.
Nor does it come close to the country-sized craters that we will need to put all the cardboard that is wrapped round those things we buy off the internet that we don't need, with money we haven't got.
Having scored a significant success though, pretty soon the government will increase the price of a basic supermarket carry-all from 5p to 10p.
That's even more than Asda currently charges.
They are going to need a lot more baskets.
Perhaps we should help those that help only themselves by furnishing them with a plastic bag of our own.
We concerned citizens could take an extra one to the shops in case we see someone who has come without theirs and is not keen on adding a whole ten pence to their bill.
We could put it over their heads and secure it with a bungee cord around their necks, so they don't lose it.