Ban the bags

Seldom do I agree with any policies put forward and championed by the Green party, but in regards to the phasing out of single-use plastic bags, I make an exception.

I am in favour of this policy for the following reasons:

The production of single use plastic bags involves a toxic recipe of chemicals and fossil fuels which are harmful to the environment. Surely we should be making better use of our remaining reserves of oil in a more efficient manner?

One argument I have heard in opposition to this policy is the negative economic effect it will have on the producers of this product. This is a valid argument only in so far as short-term loss is concerned.

The manufacturers of these products will most likely be working on a contractual basis which will be subject to the ever-changing whims and needs of the free market. If there is no longer a desire to purchase their products then they can do what any other business must at times; diversify.

Whether this involves a radical change to fundamental aspects of production or simply sourcing new contracts from other markets is entirely their prerogative. In short: just because we are in the habit of doing and consuming things in a particular way; that doesn?t necessarily mean it?s the best. After all, the move from the Neolithic (New Stone Age) into the Bronze Age was not necessitated by a global dearth of rocks. We simply found a better way of working.

Another reason for my support of this policy is centred on the everyday habitual usage of these products.

I can recount many times where I have made a purchase of something quite small and noticed the seemingly automatic actions from retailers and shop assistants to unthinkingly bag it before offering.

I often politely say that I don?t need a bag and, at times, are met with a blank stare of incomprehension in response to this disruption of everyday order.

When I was living and working in Germany one of the first things I noticed was the cultural norm of bringing one?s own bags to the supermarket. The absence of single-use plastic bags never seemed to bother the Germans at all so I fail to see why we should be unduly put out by their unavailability.

And what about the great Kiwi tradition of making do with what we have?

My auntie, who has recently passed on, grew up during the Great Depression. I had the chance to spend some time with her before her death and she shared with me many stories of what her life had been like during the 1930?s in backcountry New Zealand.

One of the running themes throughout all of these memories was a sense of making do in a time of relative austerity. I imagine that not only did this create more efficient ways of doing things, but it also encouraged better and less wasteful behaviours in general. I can?t ever remember her complaining about anything; she just used to get on with things with what she had. Sometimes she would even make a carry bag from leftover material or some old curtains.

The environmental costs of our addiction to plastic bags cannot be discounted.

Each year approximately 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are produced on this planet. Where do they all go?

While this nation?s decision to phase out the production and usage of this product will be a veritable drop in the ocean on a global level, it will be a positive difference all the same.

What is the point in persevering with the production and wasteful usage of a product: which is non-biodegradable; consumes an ever-diminishing source of resources and energy in its manufacture; and is used in an inefficient and lazy manner, especially when considering the fact that better options are readily available.

Answer: there is no point.

Assertions to the contrary remind me of King Canute; standing at the shoreline; ordering the debris strewn incoming tide to recede from whence it came.