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Bin bag makers of Britain rejoice!

I am curious… have the odious statists at the Daily Mail been getting ‘sponsorship’ money from Britain’s Bin Bag manufacturers?

‘We are not trying to tax people. We are trying to change people’s behaviour, encourage much more environmentally-friendly behaviour’

Ed Davey, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, upon having just imposed a tax on people…. without trying apparently.

46 comments to Bin bag makers of Britain rejoice!

  • Plastic bags: “A symbol of our throwaway society”.

    Tory scum.

  • Alex

    I have some sympathy with this one; for example there is good evidence that plastic bags are a significant problem to marine life that eat jellyfish, because they eat plastic bags instead and die.
    However if there is an external cost to plastic bags then put a tax on all plastics bags, not a tax on some bags supplied by some retailers; that’ll simply change where and how we get our bags without doing any good.

    BTW I believe that a state (or it may have been a county) in the U.S. measured a significant uptick in food poisoning after banning reusable plastic bags. E.g. buy a chicken, take it home in a bag, chicken leaks blood, 3 days later use the bag to buy fruit, eat the fruit ….
    I look forward to next years hysterical D.M. campaign against rises in food poisoning.

  • Rob

    What will be the effect on house prices of reusing tatty plastic bags?

  • Ark Royal

    Almost ALWAYS when shit like this happens, palms are being greased by the businesses or industry association who most benefits. So yeah, the bin bag makers will probably make out like bandits now, therefore it would not surprise me at all if they were funding the lobbying effort, directly or indirectly. Cui bono?

  • Cui bono?

    I’m sure Bono has a finger somewhere in this pie.

  • Laird

    Psuedo-environmentalists in the US have been on the warpath about plastic shopping bags for years, and with some localized success (notably, but not exclusively, in California). Some trendy high-end grocery stores, such as Whole Foods, have jumped on that bandwagon, too. Frankly, I think that a small fee (5p in the cited article) is far preferable to an outright ban. It is undeniable that there are externalities associated with plastic bags, and the fee will both help defray those costs and encourage reduction in usage (without actually prohibiting it). Certainly grocery store packers could be more judicious in their usage (I frequently get bags with just one or two small items in them), and people could increase their reliance on reusable cloth bags (pretty much a necessity in the warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, which don’t provide bags of any sort). As governmental impositions go, this one is rather rational, although I suspect that a refundable deposit (as has been imposed on soda bottles and cans) would be more effective than a simple fee in that it would also encourage collection and recycling.

    P.S.: Why do you think the bag manufacturers would “rejoice” over this development? If you are referring to makers of plastic grocery bags, and the tax works as envisioned, it will reduce their sales substantially. In the US bag manufacturers have spent millions lobbying against such bans, but they are apparently losing the fight. If by “bin bags” you mean the large plastic trash can-liner type of bags, why would this affect their sales one way or the other? I suspect that the only corporate beneficiaries would be the makers of reusable cloth bags, but that seems largely a cottage industry without much political clout. I agree that cui bono is an eminently rational question in any debate over regulation or taxes, but I don’t see that it has been answered here.

  • staghounds

    Bono fidicinem ex Hibernia est.

  • Recycling of plastic bags (and any sort of plastic) is highly polluting and unprofitable (unless subsidized, which it usually is).

    I dislike using either plastic or paper bags for shopping, because both are unreliable when just a bit on the heavy side. Personally, I prefer the reusable cloth bags.

    The plastic grocery bags are also not very practical for lining trash cans (which is what I think Perry was referring to, to answer Laird’s question), as there is always a hole in one after it having been used for groceries.

  • The plastic grocery bags are also not very practical for lining trash cans (which is what I think Perry was referring to, to answer Laird’s question), as there is always a hole in one after it having been used for groceries.

    Every few days, the garbage men come to collect the garbage on my street and before the truck comes down the road, a man goes into each property, walks down into the area where everyone has their bins (which these days is a general bin and a recyclables bin)… the guy then open the bins and removes the bags therein, depositing them out on the sidewalk. Once the street has a big pile of bags in front of every property, the garbage truck rolls down and another bloke scoops up the pile of bags and dumps them in the back of the truck, which goes om nom nom and eats them all… and those piles of bags are about 90% made up of… packed and tied plastic supermarket bags. And if this is the case in a well off part of London, I imagine in less well off parts, the figure is probably fairly close to 99%.

    Thus the vast majority of domestic waste in my part of London leaves the property inside a supermarket plastic bag, much to the sorrow of the bin liner manufacturers.

  • llamas

    I understand the issue. The last time we were in Blighty, mrs llamas remarked that there appeared to be no place, no matter how remote or picture-skew, that was not adorned with wind-blown shopping bags.

    However, the reason appears to be quite simple to understand – like ice-cubes, the UK appears to possess only about 14 working trash cans. I hauled empty coffee cups from Berwick-on-Tweed to Peterborough, a 150-mile trip, by train and taxi, to a hotel room where we finally located one of these mysterious marvels, once so well-known to all.

    And yet – the identical self-same shopping bags are used just as freely in the US, and you never see them adorning the countryside – or at least, not at anything like the density that seems to be common in the UK. What’s the difference?

    To the higher issue – I also suspect that this is the result of some energetic rent-seeking. Just not quite sure by whom. Oh, wait, here it is – the money will go to ‘environmental charities’. Of course it will.

    The ‘solution’ is, of course, completely ridiculous. So is the claim that a single-use plastic shopping bag will take 1000 years to degrade. You would think that such an outrageously-exaggerated claim would cause at least a whiff of skepticism, but it seems not.

    Tax and regulate. It’s all they know how to do. A half-a-dozen smart people in a room for an hour could devise 153 better ways to reduce the consumption of plastic bags without dipping into anybody’s pocket or giving anybody food-poisoning, but that just doesn’t fit the paradigm.



  • Offa's Lesbian... not everyone will get it

    The reason there are so few public bins in the UK has a simple explanation and a single cause: The Irish Republican Army circa 1980’s.

    Public bins are just too convenient a place to leave an explosive device. I remember when I lived in Portsmouth in 1980’s seeing the two fixed bins on my street removed for just that reason.

  • Laird

    Ah, I see your point, Perry: At present, grocery store plastic bags are being repurposed by households as trash receptacles, so by severely limiting their availability said households will be forced to turn in desperation to larger garbage bags (which is what we call them here in Obamastan). Very devious and clever! Of course, where I live you’re not permitted to put out those tiny bags individually; they have to be aggregated into larger garbage bags. Thus your supposition founders on the rocks of reality (at least over here). Good try, though!

  • Snorri Godhi

    Cannot remember anymore what supermarket bags are/were like in England, but here on the mainland the old-fashioned thick, stretchy plastic bags seem to be used mostly in department stores, shoe shops, etc.
    In supermarkets, you usually have to buy (for a reasonable price) those bags made of thin, un-stretchy plastic, which i naively think is biodegradable, but i might be wrong.

  • Thus your supposition founders on the rocks of reality (at least over here). Good try, though!

    er, no, my “supposition” is based on the fact that every few days I see 90% of the streets garbage being removed packed in supermarket carrier bags. And I am not talking about where you live, I am talking about where I live, and there are no regulations prohibiting you wrapping your rubbish in a cluster of dead yak’s scrotums if you wish, just so long as it can fit into the big metal fox-proof council approved bin, and you do not mix up the general waste and recycling waste (so no yak scrotums for the recycling, just the big council provided plastic bags for the paper and bottles on which a list of recyclables is printed).

    Twice a week, the street’s crap is on display on the sidewalk for 20-30 mins waiting for the garbage truck… and thus it becomes clear that everyone else does exactly what I do… their domestic waste really does get stuffed into re-purposed supermarket carrier bags. And this is on a street on which Mercedes and Bentleys feature fairly prominently.

    And now a law will make that no longer an economically viable things to do… much to the joy of bin bag makers. No suppositions required, it is a certainty. The only suppositions here is “did the bin liner makers actually drive this regulation from which they will undeniably benefit”? The rest is simply observation.

  • John Mann

    I imagine that manufacturers of disposable plastic shopping bags will diversify into the manufacture of bin liners.

    Unless, of course, bin liner manufacturers and shopping bag manufacturers are already one and the same.

  • jravin

    And to whom do we owe the pleasure of these plastic bags? The Greenies that (at least in the US) forced (via Government, of course) the retailers to give up on (biodegradable) PAPER bags. Because it was for the trees.

    Does this idiocy EVER end?

  • Bill B.

    Given the huge mark-up on consumer bin bags, I imagine it would’ve been a good idea to go long on the manufacturer’s stocks before this was announced. I am kicking myself 🙁

    They make a bit less that 0.1 penny per carrier bag, whereas they make about 5p-8p per bin liner!

  • Ah, I see Perry:-) No, where I live, it is done somewhat differently – and, if you can imagine that, far less appealingly.

    plastic shopping bag will take 1000 years to degrade

    It is, as Llamas points out, a complete load of crap. A regular shopping plastic bag will disintegrate in about a year or so, when exposed to the elements. Of course it can be a serious nuance when flying around the road, but so can be several other forms of garbage.

    Offa’s Lesbian… I did not get it: same here in Israel, but not because of the Irish.

  • llamas

    Well, you humble servant has a vivid memory of ducking into a doorway just down the street from Sloane Square tube station after hearing the distinctive ‘whomp’ of a high-order detonation – an IRA bomb in the booking office, it turns out.

    But that was 40 years ago. And there’s supposedly a peace deal in place with the IRA. But there’s still no trash cans? Does not compute. Sorry.



  • Mr Ed

    One reason for the dearth of bins in public places in the UK was the IRA’s (and offshoots) habit of leaving bombs in them, this happened to severely shock a colleague of mine c 1991, but the cost saving of not collect rubbish (as we call it in England) might be the major reason behind the scarcity of bins.

  • Bill B.

    But that was 40 years ago. And there’s supposedly a peace deal in place with the IRA. But there’s still no trash cans? Does not compute. Sorry.

    However Offa’s Lesbian (LOL) is correct, that’s exactly why the bins were ripped out in many places. And if you think the danger of sectarian violence in Ulster has passed, you must not read our newspapers all too often. The threat of more mainland shenanigans fortunately has not materialised but it rumbles on and on and on. Plus we now worry about Islamic nutters doing the same.

  • Well, you humble servant has a vivid memory of ducking into a doorway just down the street from Sloane Square tube station

    In that case you and I were probably within one hundred paces of each other on that day, which was 10 October 1981. The target was Chelsea Barracks on Ebury Bridge Road.

  • Jake Haye

    ‘We are not trying to tax people. We are trying to change people’s behaviour, encourage much more environmentally-friendly behaviour’

    The only people willing to change their behaviour to save 5p/bag are those on low incomes. So Davey is boasting that he’s making people with relatively uncomfortable lives slightly more uncomfortable so smug middle class leftists can feel even more morally superior than they do already.

    Do Davey and his ilk even claim to care about ‘the poor’ these days?

  • Mr Ed

    ‘We are not trying to tax people. We are trying to change people’s behaviour, encourage much more environmentally-friendly behaviour’

    ‘We are not trying to kill people. We are trying to change people’s behaviour, encourage much more socially-friendly behaviour’

  • Johnnydub

    I’ve been using the reusable bags for a while now. Not from any great altruism, more that Tesco et al’s plastic bags are so flimsy that your shopping goes through them before you get home…

  • llamas

    PdeH wrote . . . ‘In that case you and I were probably within one hundred paces of each other on that day, which was 10 October 1981. The target was Chelsea Barracks on Ebury Bridge Road.’

    Nice as the idea is, this was about 10 years earlier – I want to say 1974? It’s a long time ago, but an event like that tends to stay with you. The bomb was inside Sloane Square tube station, I recall it was in the office but that may be the memory talking. It wasn’t very big, mostly a matter of broken glass, but anything that goes ‘bang’ is by definition too big.

    I’m sure we passed in the street a dozen times in the late 70’s – I was Up West all the time in those days. I worked for a high-end language school, escorting clients to and from airports and railway stations. Happy days.



  • Rich Rostrom

    PdH: sounds very labor intensive and potentially messy. In this area, at least, household trash goes into wheelie bins or commmercial-sized dumpsters. The bins are rolled over to the truck, which levers them up to dump.

    When the trash goes into the dumpsters… Some of it is in used grocery bags; some is in small bin liners (4 gallon, for those who don’t want leakage into their small wastebaskets); some is in larger bin liners (usually 13 gallon size, some 30 gallon size); and some is dumped in loose (e.g. discarded appliances, litter from cookouts, grass clippings).

    Some areas require segregation of “recyclables” and “yard waste”. I know one suburb where householders must buy a tag for for each bag or bin to be picked up.

  • None of that would work in many areas of London, where you have a wide variety of street configurations and widths in every borough. Wheelie bins totally impracticable when bin storage is often down a steep narrow flight of stairs in the ‘front well’ of a house build in the 1800’s or early 1900’s.

    Not messy as long as it is all bagged (to whit, re-purposed Waitrose supermarket bags 🙂 )

  • Fraser Orr

    This is one of those “scientists say so it must be true.” Exactly how did these wise men determine it takes 1000 years for plastic bags to degrade? Plastic bags have only been around for a few decades, and to think you can extrapolate from the first 2% of the cycle to the full cycle is the sort of nonsense that gets you an F at the middle school science fair.

    Oh and that 9 billion number sounds a lot until you do that math a realize that you can store about ten years worth in a fifty foot deep hole an acre in size.

    Furthermore, plastic bags photo degrade so one should not be surprised that if you put them in a big hole they don’t go away all that quickly. In fact nothing really does, except paper and food… Which brings me to one of my bugbears.

    You ever get one of those patronizing emails that in the signature tell you to consider the environment before you print this? I never quite got that. Paper is made from trees. Trees make paper by sucking evil carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. When we toss it into a landfill, we are effectively putting bunch of evil atmospheric carbon dioxide into a hole in the ground. And that seems to align with the watermelons’ agenda. So I never quite understood what all the whining was about.

  • Gareth

    A most disagreeable aspect of this for me is that our betters keep suggesting the money raised by the charge should be given to charities. For the time being it is just that, a suggestion, but I won’t be surprised if it becomes part of the regulations.

    By an *amazing* coincidence in recent years there has been a EU proposal aimed at reducing the use of ‘thin-gauge’ plastic bags. I wonder if the UK legislation will chime with that which would give retailers an easy escape by giving away thicker bags and claiming they are not single use bags.

    Alex said:

    I look forward to next years hysterical D.M. campaign against rises in food poisoning.

    You’re four years too late! June 2010 Reusable shopping bags ‘are a threat to public health’

    But as if by magic, June 2014 Queen’s Speech: ‘Food poisoning threat’ from the 5p plastic bag charge

  • All the gear no idea

    <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/bacteria-landfill1.htm&quot;

    A 16 year old Canadian boy has the answer in the link above a combination of bacteria that breaks down plastic bags into water and a bit of CO2. A little investment in that and we wouldn't need to ship them to China to be recycled into bag mountains. But no that doesn't make sense! What we really need is another stealth tax and a law with some bansturbators name on it to make them feel special. And a whole industry built up around collecting the stealth tax and giving it to the fake charity of the month to fund the next great bansturbation. If they really want a law with their name on couldn't they just make one that says frackers must take the recycled bag Co2 and pump it back in the ground? It took me 5 minutes on Google to get that solution. Took them years to condition us into believing their tax is the only solution. Love them LibDems… Think they need some Google awareness courses!!!

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Not on topic or off, exactly, but I’m less than enthusiastic about biodegradable plastics: they would seem to invite the evolution of organisms that metabolize plastics, which might not be the smartest thing we’ve ever done.

  • Julie near Chicago

    The way I remember it is, that at first (meaning, for some number of years) the grocery stores began offering plastic bags along with paper. The cashier would ask, “Would you like paper or plastic, ma’am?” I think most of us really preferred paper (although the idea of the handles was nice) because they were usually fairly sturdy. And of course you could request double-bagging even with paper.

    And there grew up a big hullabaloo, we were all encouraged by the Environmental crowd to use the plastic bags, NOT paper, because in that way we’d be helping to Save the Planet. By saving the forests. All those trees cut down to make paper bags, y’see.

    Eventually it got to where your choices were between plastic and plastic unless you specifically requested paper.

    Meanwhile, they started making the plastic grocery bags a bit stronger, so they did hold up better. But then some years ago there was a turn-around. Using too much plastic, see. Bad for the Enviro, y’know. So they went to ultra-thin, easy-tear bags, just the thing! Those didn’t work so well, and a lot of us started asking for double-bagging. Eventually the supermarkets caught on, and the checkout people started double-bagging as the general rule.

    Now, of course, we’re back to 1975 or whatever it was and Plastic is Bad for the Environment, and “paper or plastic?”

    Meanwhile, we have indeed been advised here and there to launder the reusable bags after every use because of cross-contamination or outright spoilage risks.

    I don’t know what to tell you-all, except that Everything Has a Downside™. Me, I don’ worry ’bout it no more. And I do use the grocery bags as wastepaper-basket liners, and the bigger ones even for the medium-sized kitchen garbage can. You can tie the handles together tightly, and when one gets full, well, there are plenty more where it came from.

  • Laird

    Even if it were true that plastic bags wouldn’t degrade for 1,000 years, that’s pretty irrelevant. It’s a miniscule amount of time in the grand global scheme of things.

    Anyway, I think George Carlin had it right. “Why are we here? Plastic!”

  • Jim

    Re the ‘plastic bags last for 1000 years’ fact that gets chucked around, I think I had better apply for a large research grant to investigate my kitchen drawer, as it obviously is a worm hole into the future. When I cleared out my drawer full of bags a while back the ones at the back of the drawer had disintegrated into a sort of dust, which can only have happened if the back of the drawer is 1000 years in time ahead of the front. This could be an important scientific discovery of great significance to all humanity. Or environmentalists could be lying bags of sh*t.

    You decide.

  • llamas

    And another thought which I failed to capture – if the issue is that people throw the bags away, then the answer is to make the bags valuable enough to the user that they will not throw them away but will instead keep them to use for other purposes, eg, to pack household waste as PdeH suggests. It may be counterintuitive, but perhaps the way to reduce the amount of discarded shopping bag waste is to make the bags better – thicker, or from more-durable material – so that people will keep them and use them again. Although more material may be used, less will be discarded after first use, so a net gain.

    This sort of thinking, of course, makes the head of your average watermelon explode. Their creed is to use less material, no matter how much more it costs in time, money and effort. The fact that their soi-disant ‘charities’ are set to profit from the imposition of their creed upon the entire populace is just a free bonus.



  • It may be the reason re-purposing supermarket carrier bags is ubiquitous in my neck of the woods is that most people here shop at the more up-market Waitrose, not Tesco… and Waitrose bags are indeed somewhat more durable than the super-thin Tesco ones.

  • the other rob

    We have long used supermarket plastic bags as garbage bags – there’s one hanging from the reloading press in the corner of my study as I type. All of the trash then goes into a giant dumpster in the back alley and, once a week, a truck comes by and empties it in one fell swoop. It’s a far cry from the “Bin Police” silliness that we had to put up with in England.

    I also ship a lot of stuff and use them to encapsulate items against the ingress of annoying little pieces of expanded polystyrene. Thankfully, there’s no talk of banning them out here on the High Plains.

    For anybody who feels like making a gesture, a quick search shows that bags can be bought for as little as 15 or 20 quid for 2000. One could bring one’s own, when shopping, or stand outside the supermarket, handing them out to shoppers…

  • Mr Ed

    Surely the next ‘logical’ step will be rationing (them smuggling) plastic bags? For our own good, naturally. With ID required to buy carrier bags, or tattoo bar codes on your skin to verify the ‘free-market’ alternative (as some fools might call it) with a ‘voluntary’ registration scheme.

    I like the other rob’s idea of handing out carrier bags as a subversive libertarian protest… An interesting way to get our ideas out there: “Bags of Fun”. Pictures of von Mises and Hayek, Eugen Boehm von Bawerk for the larger size bags, and Carl Menger.

  • Mr Ed


    but I’m less than enthusiastic about biodegradable plastics: they would seem to invite the evolution of organisms that metabolize plastics, which might not be the smartest thing we’ve ever done.

    It’s not a question of invitation. Bacteria will ‘eat’, and they have been evolving genes to establish the necessary metabolic pathways for digesting degradable plastics (insofar as extra was needed) much as they have done so with antibiotic resistance, where they evolve enzymes (biological catalysts) that break down the chemical constituents of antibiotics, it’s the same process with plastics for bacteria to establish pathways to enable them to gorge on degradable plastics, which are, to a bacteria, little more complex than cellulose.

    Not all plastics are biodegradable, but bacteria can swap genes via plasmids and with a bit of vigorous bacterial shagging (such as it is) can end up creating new pathways (provided that it all works and doesn’t lead to them being outcompeted by their fellow bacteria with simpler, more nimble systems).

    To keep bacteria from digesting biological energy sources, keeping things dry is always a good start, cool another one and to an extent, away from oxygen, but that would only limit the range of bacteria than might try their luck when looking for lunch, and oxygen kills some bacteria (obligate anaerobes) due to its ferocious reactivity.

  • Richard Thomas

    According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags.

    Ballparking it here…

    So that’s 0.00012 barrels of oil or 0.019 litres or 1/200th of a gallon.

    If we (for the sake of convenience) take oil as petrol, that’s enough to drive your average SUV approximately 1/8 of a mile or 660ft.

    Or taking it another way, 200WH, enough to run an (evil) incandescent 100W bulb for 2 hours or a standard room heater for 4 minutes.


  • Richard Thomas

    PfP. Using plastics is already inviting organisms that devour plastics. And, indeed, they are here.


  • Laird

    Richard Thomas, that’s an interesting article; thanks for posting it.

    I note that the report was presented at “the 5th International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.” I guess if I were going to a conference on marine debris (especially if it were my fifth time!) I’d want it to be in Honolulu, too.

  • Richard Thomas

    Laird, I just Googled the term and posted the first viable link I could find. I’m helpful but lazy. 🙂

    Perry, the Waitrose bags need to be heavier duty. For repackaging the Tescos groceries into before taking them home 🙂

  • The PtB here in Israel just came out with a similar law. Coincidence, or are they comparing notes when no one is looking?

  • Runcie Balspune

    If plastic bags (or anything plastic) is made of oil, why can’t we just burn them and and use the heat to fuel electricity generation? But I guess there’s some greenie law that prevents this from happening.

    The supermarket home delivery wars have already started, it only costs one or two pounds to deliver shopping now, cheaper than a bus fare, and there are very few bags involved, so this is already a worthless solution to a disappearing problem.