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Plastic Bag 'Conspiracy'?

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posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 07:25 AM
(If this is the wrong area to put this, I'm not sure where it should go, I apologise)

First off, let me introduce myself to this forum. Greetings, I am ShiningSabrewolf and whilst I've been a member of this site for a while I don't often contribute much other than to offer my opinions, thougts and on occasion sources to back these up. You may have seen me in some other forums but this is the first time I've had a proper look at these, which is odd because the Earth and the natural world have always been dear to my heart.

So, more and more it hurts me when I hear people moaning about having to pay for plastic bags here in the UK. I'd like to address this particular issue, and also I would like to find out about something someone said to me when I mention the bags.

So, first off, I'd like to ask a question of you all-I was told in my workplace by a customer that having to pay for plastic bags was a conspiracy, not only that but that plastic bags are biodegradable in less than a hundred years? When I asked him where I could find the information that plastic bags (the old ones they used to give out free) are biodegradable was, he clammed up and wouldn't tell me. So, well, I guess I have two questions:

What is this supposed conspiracy that gets people so angry about having to pay 3-10p for plastic bags?


Where can I find the evidence and/or research proving that the old free plastic bags are biodegradable?

Ok, so, now here's the next bit. If these people are aware of conspiracies, then I'd imagine that they know of this site. So, I'd like to cite the reasons why paying for plastic bags is a good thing, and address the most asked questions and excuses I have heard about them.

I'll start by citing the most asked questions:

1: I'm spending/I've spent x amount in here, so why do I have to pay for a bag?

2: Why do I have to pay when I'm just going to throw it away?

3: I never had to pay for them in X, Y, Z, country, why do I have to pay here?

Well, 2 is pretty easy and I think most people should have figured this out by now: It's so that you don't throw it away. It's so that you consider alternate things to do with them. They're actually very versatile and useful things, and even if they get horribly dirty then they're very easy to just wipe off. Plastic bags don't deserve being thrown away after one use, anymore than the environment of our planet deserves to be polluted by the litter inconsiderate people create.

3 should also be an obvious and self explanatory one, yet we get that at least one a day. You are not in X, Y, Z country, so do the polite thing and just say 'no' instead of complaining about it.

1 requires a bit more explanation I think. The first way, monetarily. Whether anyone likes it or not, shops are capitalist, and capitalists like to turn a profit. Because when they turn a profit, they can pay employees, buy stock from wholesalers, pay for maintenance and cleaning, training, insurance, taxes and perhaps keep shareholders happy, as well as expand by buying up land and building new stores or paying rent for a space. Which of course they want to expand because then they reach out and get more customers, so more profit etc etc.

So when you buy a product you are paying for all that plus a little more so the company you support can grow and develop. Now, it may come as a surprise to some but plastic bags do actually cost something to make. You have to make them out of oil for a start, then it all has to be transported to the stores throughout the country, and they have to pay for the truckdriver, his transport costs, and the bag suppliers (oversimplified, but you get the point) so, what do you think was happening before?

That's right, they were losing out on money whenever they gave them out, which would have driven prices up due to what companies call 'shrinkage'. Theft and loss during transport as well as waste all

[edit on 21-6-2010 by ShiningSabrewolf]

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 07:44 AM
Every little helps!

I used to work for Tesco and have also for another large corporation, one of the biggest mantras for them was saving on consumable costs, so staff (in Tesco) were told/trained to be thrifty with giving out the bags. I can't remember the exact figure, but I think a box of 1000 carrier bags was about £14 - for the standard supermarket bag... and yes, they are that concerned if a store can save £14 a day.

I would suggest that the purpose of charging for bags is twofold;
1) It's good PR for a supermarket chain to claim they care about the environment - even whilst they're stripping the guts out of local communities etc.
2) Yup, you got it penny-pinching tho the N'th degree.

Personally I try not to use plastic bags, I have a large shoulder/courier bag that's excellent for cycling down to the shops with. My mum makes large cloth bags for shopping. To be honest this is a bit of an ethical stance, why use something I don't need to, especially if it'll be something that impacts the environment? Although, in all honesty I do prefer to shop from independant sources, not chains, but that might be another thread.

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 07:47 AM
-contribute to shrinkage, which again drives prices up. So asking for 10p for a sturdier, possibly specially made to be biodegradable bag seems reasonable when you consider all this. That's the economic reason.

Now for the bit that's closer to our hearts and minds. Reasons for paying for them is so that they are not taken for granted anywhere near as much as they used to be. And you know what, as far as I can tell it's working. I've looked at a few news reports like this one:

that all agree since stores have started charging, people have used far less plastic bags than before. Which is undoubtedly a good thing since they've been known for a long time to be damaging to wildlife and environmental health.

There's another thing I saw in a newspaper report that worries me however, saying that because there are biodegradable plastic bags and paper bags they are worse for the environment when they do degrade in landfills than throwing away the old plastic bags that don't degrade. This is complete BS as landfill sites siphon off the methane and carbon dioxide gas produced by degradation and use it for electricity, heat, or combined heat and power.

See here:

Anyway, I think that's about all I have to say. I'm sure the horror stories of plastic bags polluting the environment and injuring or killing wildlife is something that everyones heard about, which is why I haven't added any links to that sort of thing.

See you around

[edit on 21-6-2010 by ShiningSabrewolf]

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 08:04 AM
Wow. I didn't realize that you guys had to pay for your plastic bags...didn't even realize you used plastic bags (I don't get out much).

I was under the impression that the rest of the world (outside the greedy, corrupt, wasteful U.S.) all brought their own, reusable shopping bags with them. In any case, that's what I do...bring my own cloth or net bags, or, on the rare occasion that I forget them, ask for paper or pass on a bag altogether. In fact, I'm one of the weirdos who leaves most packaging at the store for them to throw away and writes to companies about ridiculous excess packaging. Once you unwrap the stuff, you'd be surprised at how much less space it takes in your bag.

My weekly trash for a household of 4 is well less than half a trash can and a box full of recyclables. It's really not even that inconvenient, but people in the stores do sometimes look at me funny. But I don't care.

My gramma, who was from Europe taught me this. Net bags were all she ever used for as long as I can remember (since the early 60s), and I just kind of picked up the habit when I was young. I became a plastic bag abuser for a while in the 80s but recovered from that habit in the 90s. Plastic annoys me in general and I avoid it wherever possible. I'm still kind of annoyed they've added plastic to milk and OJ cartons, and plastic water bottles are the worst. Even if they're recycled, which I suspect many are not, I don't like plastic things. Give me metal or wood or glass any day.

So, no, I wouldn't pay for plastic bags if I were you. I don't like them, even if people "repurpose" them or not. And as you say, to me it's a good side effect if charging for the bags makes people use less of them.

And I think the only conspiracy about having to pay for plastic bags is further greed by the companies who want to suck every last dollar out of the average person in any way they can. Same people who raise the price of food and everything when gas prices go up or the weather is bad and ruins the crop (as an excuse)and then never lower them again when the crisis is over. Because the economists said that's the way it should work. Ha. I'm such a weirdo.

[edit on 21-6-2010 by ~Lucidity]

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 08:08 AM
reply to post by jokei

Exactly. I'm very happy that you've got your own that's good for going out and shopping without the need for even using bags.

Personally I keep every bag I have, because like I said I find them very useful and I really don't want to see the environment going down the drain.

Also star for you for caring

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 08:25 AM
reply to post by ~Lucidity

No, you're not a weirdo at all Lucidity. I think people like you should be the role models for the rest of the wasteful people.

Unfortunately we don't even have the option of asking for paper bags most of the time, because most stores over here don't keep any. Only a select few that proudly proclaim they care for the environment and/or support fairtrade have them, like Hotel Chocolat which gives out quite sturdy cardboard bags. It's a shame really, most of us seem to have become addicted.

I hope your letters about excess packaging don't go unnoticed.

[edit on 21-6-2010 by ShiningSabrewolf]

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 08:33 AM
I was also annoyed initially when we had to start paying for bags a few years ago.

But, I have since changed my mind simply due to the fact that the amount of these bags blowing all over the place has significantly decreased.
Now people bring their own, or reuse what they bought before. If they buy one or two items, they don't even ask for a bag.

In South Africa, the fee we pay for plastic bags mostly goes towards some or other government fund, not the pockets of the corporations (same thing I guess).

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 08:58 AM
There is a similar system in DC. It's 5 cents if you want a plastic bag.

I had no problem with that while I was there, then again, I use reusable bags too.

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 09:03 AM
Plastic bags are rediculously cheap to make. Not sure, but they could be easily cost a penny per 100 to be conservative. So to be charged for one is outlandish.

Someone is covering their bottom line.

Simple exposure to the sun and exposure to the elements can cause them to become brittle and break down much like a plastic milk container. In a landfill, bacteria is just going to break it down eventually.

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 09:08 AM

Originally posted by ShiningSabrewolf
Where can I find the evidence and/or research proving that the old free plastic bags are biodegradable?

I don't think many plastics are truly bio degradable (say in the same way as paper) - and I seriously doubt that free plastic bags are.

They do degrade though, mainly through exposure to light, they also degrade in the ground of a land fill and in the sea if that's where they end up - but it's not desirable, the bags will break up into smaller and smaller pieces, of course while still retaining the same environmental problems but also making clean up impossible - imagine having to sieve an entire beach to separate the sand from microscope particles of plastic
- now do that to ever beach in the world! - The plastics will unfortunately out live the human race now.

I hardly ever use them any more, I usually have a sports bag thing with me.

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 09:22 AM

Originally posted by CAPT PROTON
Someone is covering their bottom line.

Of course they are, which is a point I already covered in the OP

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 09:25 AM
reply to post by Now_Then

Thank you, that's exactly the kind of information I was looking for

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 10:00 AM
First off, good post!
Secondly, IMO, there is a bit of a conspiracy here, as long as supermarkets have been handing out carrierbags, they have never been free, you don't get nothing for nothing in this world!
They appeared to be free, but the overall costs would have been incorporated into the shopping bill, so when they started charging for them, it was just a scam to make more money off the back of the mass plastic guilt trip.
Don't get me wrong, plastics are bad news, but the problem doesn't lie with the consumer, and to shift blame that way is just a smoke screen.
The problem lies with the manufacture of plastics, thats where the pressure should be applied, not with the poor bugger trying to get his/her shopping home.
Also it helps to shift blame by making the consumer think he's doing his bit for the environment by paying/reusing etc, that also reinforces the idea that avarage man in the street is responsable for the plastic problem, as long as we are led to believe we are the cause of the problem, we don't apply any pressure to the multi billion pound plastics industry, which is also part of the oil industry.
The mass use of plastics has only been about since around the 60's, we managed fine before then without them, we'll manage just fine without them in the future, as long as they haven't poisoned our planet beyond repair.

posted on Jun, 21 2010 @ 06:04 PM
reply to post by ShiningSabrewolf

Well your customer is correct about a conspiracy to get more money out of us... but wrong regarding the facts on plastic bags...

Supermarkets should be forced to BAN plastic bags... they could then sell natural fibre bag that are biodegradable and reusable.

But, the greedy corporates have seen a way to make money and appear to be helping the environment... They have simply worked at that there is more profit in selling a bag for 10p, that breaks after 1 or 2 uses, than selling a bag for £2 that can last for a year.

Worldwide, Billions of these bags produced each year (some estimate say as many as a trillion)... These bags do not degrade in 100 years as this customer suggested... it has been estimated that at sea a plastic bag can take between 400 – 1000 years... And they DO NOT Biodegrade. They simply breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces until they become tiny particles of plastic dust which effects a whole new host of marine creatures such as shell fish, crabs and shrimps. During this process, they release toxins into the sea.

On land, these bags release their toxins into the soil, which then leach into the water table. These toxins then get into the food chain via the plants that grow in the contaminated soil.

These bags are a massive problem for wildlife... every year millions of creatures, including Whales, Dolphins, porpoises, puffins, seals, sharks, turtles and birds dies from either ingesting or getting tangled with the bags.

A plastic bag, floating in the sea, looks very similar to a jellyfish... a tasty treat for many creatures. The bag then gets trapped in the intestines causing a slow painful death.

What shocks me the most is how stupid the average person in the street is... selfishly arguing in favour of plastic bags simply because they are "convenient"

It is almost tempting to shove a plastic bag down their throat and, while watching them writhe in agony, ask them again about their views on plastic bags...

Ok... sorry... maybe a bit extreme... but you get my point

[edit on 21-6-2010 by Muckster]

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