Here's the latest item on the plastic shopping bag debate in Wales
Because I design and make reusable bags, I think about the disposable v reusable bags issue quite a lot. We are still using calico shopping bags I first got in 1987 (Luxembourg), 1991 (Japan) and 1993 (when Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick had them for sale as an alternative tour souvenir), plus a few more. Any plastic bag that comes into this house gets used and reused until it can't be used any more - then it gets used as a bin bag. I have the 1998 Quilts UK souvenir plastic carrier bag still in use in my workroom - sometimes wish I'd kept it pristine - maybe it would now be a collector's item!
Earlier this year, when Sainsbury's and some other supermarkets stopped handing out plastic bags, we just took our own. BUT - big BUT - I soon found I had to start buying bin bags instead. These seem to be thicker plastic than the disposable bags, so I feel like I'm using more plastic.
I've been forced into using more bin bags than normal by our local council's recycling initiative. We now have a box for glass and plastic (bottles, but no plastic food wrapping). Previously we took this to the local tip (on our way to the supermarket & into town) or dropped off the glass at the supermarket recycling bins. We also have a collection for recyclable paper (but not cardboard - this goes to the local tip) - as most of my paper has personal info on it, this is of limited use, unless I spend time (and electricity) shredding stuff first. I compost as much as I can, including my interesting experiment with using pistachio shells as a garden mulch, heaped up for rain water rinsing to remove the salt first!
Our main rubbish collection is now just once a fortnight. Even with the relatively cool summer, this means the main rubbish bin stinks by the second week. The council's suggestion? Wrap all the rubbish in.... plastic bags! So suddenly I need plastic bags in quantities I didn't before, when we had a weekly collection.
As I have two inquisitive cats, the kitchen bin has to be emptied every night into the main bin, unless I want to find an overturned bin in the morning, a lot of mess and each cat blaming the other for it. So that's a bag a day...
Supermarket plastic bags have been reintroduced, but seem even thinner and weaker than before. Tesco's bags are the worst - they barely survive the trip from supermarket to car, never mind trying to carry them on the bus. Because the bags are so weak and prone to tearing, it isn't possible to reuse them several times before using them as a bin bag.
So, in our efforts to be more "green", are we actually ending up using more plastic?
With Christmas coming up, I can't help thinking of the number of plastic presents that will be given - will all those people who have been proud to be making their environmental contribution by reusing their shopping bags all year (after buying much thicker "reusable" plastic carriers or those hessian bags where farmers have probably have used pesticides to grow the fibre) spare much thought for the amount of plastics in the items they buy, or what will happen to the items those gifts will replace?
Just to help us even more in our environmental efforts, the local council has closed the recycling centre (i.e. tip) 1 1/2 miles from my house, on my way into town (so I didn't use extra petrol), for 6 months, while it is rebuilt and improved. In the meantime, they suggested that we should use either Wrexham Industrial Estate's tip or the one as Plas Madoc. Both would require a 20 mile round trip, as I don't go to these places for any other reason. Very un-environmental!
2 hours ago