Thursday, May 31, 2007

Witches' Knickers

I have pretty much given up on BBC Breakfast News now (and they on me, so not much to lose), as they have pretty much given up on news, or at least reporting, in favour of creating visuals of press releases.

However, around the cornflakes it can still often be lurking on in the corner, and I just caught the tail-end of the latest worthy initiative surrounding plastic bags.

Now as I missed the beginning I am not quite sure what it was all about, but here's a link to today's programme, and as this will soon disappear to the initiative in question: mosbags, guerilla bagging.

Sounds fun. No harm. Good luck to them.

But, now, enviROI.

I learned something. 'We' apparently demand/use/dispose of 290 bags a year, and the reporter was seen under a pile of them. Yuk. Thing is, how much plastic is that? No, really, how much? I don't know, but ignoring litter (which IS an issue) and killing wildlife (ditto, though I wonder how much other rubbish in the sea and fields does more), in terms of plastic weight (not volume), how much are we actually talking here? As the aspiring beneficiary of the RE:tie's contribution (though that is turning something that has no use, save disposal currently, into an actual second useful item) I am the first to wish to say every little bit helps, but context is important. If compressed into a block, how many Albert Halls are we talking here or, more personally, how many bottles of fabric softener for example, with one in our kitchen now destined for the bin because I don't know if I can pop it in with the PEP fizzies in the local plastics skip - which to me is a MUCH BIGGER ISSUE!???!

As it is a critique sometimes levelled at much that and I come up with, I also wonder about consumer uptake.

With a family of four and time pressures, my trips to the supermarket are few, far and frantic. What I have done is kept several cardboard bottle carriers in the boots of both cars, which I take with me and pop in the trolley. These make a big difference to the bagging, and with bottles double bagging, that used to be done. I also have a few score hemp jobbies from council shows and eco-expo giveaways, which it now occurs to throw into the mix, too. So this piece has done its job with a slight awareness boost, and credit to them.

But I have to say I need about 10 to handle it all. I noted that this piece was again a bunch of young, single, urban trendies, on foot picking up a sarny and a bottle of Evian (how many bags' worth?), and again wonder how that equates to a harassed parent trying to get the week's shopping in and done.

Personally, if one were organised, I always thought the crate system was better, though the sheer amount of plastic making them seemed huge and possibly poor enviROI from the get go. But the word there is organised. For spontaneity, we are back to remembering to take these no so little bags with us. For a 5 item dash to the corner shop, why not, but for a bigger effort, by foot or even car, how many are going to go there (though logically why not if you are to struggle back with several laden bags) with all these efforts hanging out of your pockets? There is a supposition one is just carrying out that task, from your home base. Is that practical? Is it going to be done?

But, as noted, other countries seem to do fine, and waste is waste, so it must be addressed. I just wish we could be a bit more joined up, recognise some practical realities, and sell it in ways that might appeal beyond a twenty-something BBC researcher's local street community and PR mates, authority box tickers, real-issue, greenwash-distracting, knee-jerk marketers, etc.

Finally, and on a practical note, I was also a little intrigued by the reporter's choice of recycling bin for his 290 bags at the end of the piece: what looked like a street skip. Now unless there are industrial sized collection facilities in his neck of the woods, I'd hazard that all that ends up in there ends up in a landfill, and so to ensure they stand a better chance of actually being recycled would probably advocate popping them in the bin at the supermarket that says 'plastic bag recycling'.

No comments: