Do we really need to ban plastic bags?
They are the ultimate symbol of our throwaway culture. But, as the Welsh Assembly announces plans to tax plastic bags, some believe they are distracting us from more important environmental issues
Massing in their millions, crucified and shredded on barbed wire fences,plastic bags have come to be dubbed "roadside daisies" in South Africa. Some now even mournfully refer to them as the country's national flower. Thousands of miles away in the metaphorical plughole at the heart of the Pacific Ocean, a spinning mass of plastic detritus, which includes countless carrier bags hanging limp in the water like jellyfish, revolves in perpetuity. And in China, which last year saw the closure of one of the world's largest plastic-bag factories, with the loss of 20,000 jobs, due to the government's concern about "white pollution", an estimated 300m carrier bags are still handed out to shoppers every day.
Plastic bags are one of the most recognisable symbols of our modern throwaway culture. In the decades since their introduction – the first plastic "baggies" for bread, sandwiches and fruit were introduced in the US in 1957 – their use has become ubiquitous across the planet. One million are handed out every minute, according to We Are What We Do, the not-for-profit group that was the driving force behind the Anya Hindmarch-designed "I'm Not A Plastic Bag" reusable carrier that briefly – and somewhat ironically – became a must-have accessory in 2007. It has long been the instinctive reflex of the shop assistant to place the items we buy into a plastic bag – and, equally, it has been our instinctive reflex to accept them. Very few of us ever questioned the logic or implications of such a mundane exchange. But in recent years, the unsightly and growing presence of these bags across our collective environment has led to a global movement to restrict their use – and, in some cases, calls for their outright ban.
According to reports...