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Single Use Carrier Bags Charge

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From tomorrow, The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Scotland) Regulations 2014 will automatically assume that everyone in Scotland who requires a new carrier bag to take goods away is either intending to commit a littering offence or contribute it to landfill immediately.

The law isn't simply concerned with waste plastic as it covers paper bags too, and explicitly "multiple use" bags require more plastic. The intent appears to be to reduce the number and change the type of bags in circulation. A total ban would be more effective.

It's unlikely to help reduce littering, that would defeat the point of having a bag to carry goods away. The majority of visible litter appears to be in the form of used food and drink containers. People who litter don't care about the effect it has, don't consider their actions to be wrong, and won't be impacted financially by an extra 5p charge per bag. A ban on smoking would eliminate a lot more litter than the tiny percentage caused by carrier bags.

Only "single use" bags are affected under the regulations. Any bag labelled for "multiple reuse" and infinitely replaced by the manufacturer when worn out does not attract a charge, even if the purchaser throws the bag out the car window when they leave the store. Bags as thick as 50 micrometers or more also do not attract a charge, so don't forget your digital callipers when shopping.

The current "single use" bags can already be reused dozens of times. For the consumer a 5p charge still makes them the best value option. To encourage use of more efficient bags, the "multiple use" bags would have to be free.

Nothing in the regulations requires charging for "multiple use" bags, and these bags must be replaced free of charge forever. Driven by the need to maintain a supply of replacement free bags supermarkets may eventually stop providing "single use" bags (which they will make no profit from) and only provide "multiple reuse" bags that are priced to cover all the replacements.

Thicker bags have to be used 4-5 times as much as the thinner bags they replace to offset the extra environmental impact.

Cheap plastic bags

Both ASDA and Tesco prompt people to reuse carrier bags and have sold thick plastic carrier bags for a while now but their free bags have simply gotten thinner and less reusable. They start falling apart after a few uses... like this Tesco bag, which didn't like holding items from ASDA so the bottom split open and it threw them all over the car park:
Tesco carrier bag wrapped around a broken shampoo bottle
(Yes, that's one of the shampoo bottles from yesterday missing its lid, they're not just PVC, they're unable to handle being dropped too).


I put everything into the remaining ASDA bag which managed to survive the walk home (except for a handle) although it looks like the bottom was ready to give way too:
Repaired ASDA carrier bag handle ASDA carrier bag ready to break

ASDA's bags normally split down the side very quickly:
ASDA bag with split down the side



I used one of Tesco's basic non-free bags for over a year before the handle eventually gave way (but the various holes in the bottom are ready to go too) and I still need to get it replaced...
Tesco carrier bag with broken handle

So... the message is: reuse your carrier bags, as long as you paid extra for them first. I used to have a bright green Marks & Spencer carrier bag that intended to survive forever, but it got covered in sticky Irn-Bru so I had to throw it away.

Widely recycled PVC?

ASDA brand shampoo bottles are made of plastic so it should be easy to recycle them, but they're not. Someone has failed to check what type of plastic is actually being used. The label says:
Disposal: BOTTLE PLASTIC widely recycled
However, the plastic is type 3 (PVC) which is, according to Wikipedia, not typically recycled and there are no facilities to recycle this in Fife:
[Plastic Type 3 PVC symbol]

Bernard Matthews fails at recycling

First Bernard Matthews increased their prices 50% by including only 4 turkey escalopes in each pack instead of 6. Now they've made their packaging more wasteful by changing from a cardboard label to a plastic one:
Disposal Information: [Label] Sorry currently non-recyclable

ASDA managed to cut down on packaging last year by printing the label onto the plastic itself and getting rid of the cardboard part altogether.

One week later...

[Full recycling boxes]

I didn't expect them to fill up so fast.

Recycling boxes

[Recycling boxes]

The left one is for my blue bin, the right one is for the local recycling centre. At some time in the next decade I might have recycled enough to offset the amount of sellotape used to make the boxes...

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Recycling category.

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Content authored by myself is just my honest opinion. If you find any words or pictures menacing or offensive, stop reading now.

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simon@arlott.org.uk
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