Thursday, February 28, 2008

Careful what you wish for

I do believe the whole plastic bag thing is now a done deal. Just like any attempt at discussing climate change. At least for reasoned debate. You are either for the ban, or you are an enemy of Gaia. No matter whether it, other in the most simplistic, absolutist terms, might or might not be effective on a few key environmental levels, at least without some other more pressing and vital areas (such as sorting out our woeful waste collection and disposal systems) being addressed first.

Some noisy people have spoken, the media mob has seen a soft target, decided, and it's all over bar the P45s... and possible worse planetary enviROI from the as yet not very clearly explained alternatives (Paper? Much worse for carbon. Biodegradables/compostables? Not really ready to be dealt with properly as yet. Bags for life? Well, yes, but these do seem to be getting rushed out a bit).

No issue that these things are not optimal on about any level, but I'd love such as the Daily Mail to please explain how 'M&S banishing the FREE bag' (today's headline) stops 5p plastic bags getting into the waste stream and choking a turtle. Or at least becoming part of a toxic soup solution. It's mankind's consumerism, and the fact there are an awful lot of us (and growing) consuming ever more, that is pumping ever more crud into the air, land and sea, mostly thoughtlessly or carelessly, that is doing for these precious icons of nature.

And it is driven by a much broader set of entities all complicit in this, including those placing the ads such as those on p24 of the Mail, for M&S, suggesting we dash out and buy Mum a nice bunch of posies (from where?) and chocolates (wrapped in what?). Ditto Tesco on P30. Plus booze. Pampers at Sainsbury’s p18, if you fancy the next cause, guys. I personally support Green Nappies, but not sure what their ad budget is.

But I guess fewer bags might help... maybe along with those in papers that hold the inserts and FREE CDs, etc. And I do notice that on top of the efforts of the Indy and Guardian, the Telegraph today has a FREE 'eco-friendly bag' for each reader... which you need to send off for. Oh, just noticed; the Daily Mail too. What are they giving away next week to persuade us to buy their papers that gets posted back? The container ships (shipping is an issue, too, I imagine, for anything in the sea) from the East must be bulging! Bless.

And in the spirit of jumping bandwagons, as I was listening to the Jeremy Vine show today, there was the delicious irony of one caller in favour of an immediate Planet Ban-it (all anti's selected by being rabid 'who cares about nature' nutters), who had just 'flown in' from her dive business on the Red Sea... and these things were spoiling her UK clients' weekend getaways. Bless. Hope they cycle there and don't use sunscreen (apparently it kills coral).

Yes, things that are harmful to the environment do need to be identified and phased out where alternatives can be found (and maybe even if they cannot). But when the barely informed (I'm still on a steep learning curve ) mob rules, careful what you wish for. Who knows what... or who... may be next in line?

Mail - Marks & Spencer joins The Mail's campaign to Banish the Bags by charging for them

Taking from Peter to fine, well, Peter again

Two interesting examples of modern governance on BBC News this morning, especially with regards to the inevitable fiscal complements.

First up we learn that there is an 'issue' with Doctor's pay. Fewer hours; oodles more dosh. Like... 60% pay rises.

I have no real comment save to chuckle at that made by a BMA rep: 'It's merely the consequence of a contract signed off by the then Chancellor.' Maybe not so prudent then?

But what has inspired this was the news that a railway company is being fined a record amount for failing to deliver a proper service. Fair enough. Hit 'em where it hurts, right? At least the bonusses might take a hit and, who knows, a few numpties may get promoted sideways.


It seems that the money to pay the fine will actually come from the taxpayers, as we are funding the useless load of sods already. And I also wonder where this money actually goes? Better services? Or to pay for ever more parastic entities staffed to the gunnels and tasked to simply look for more ways to keep public money in the system by any means.

And the perfect environment for this trend? You guessed it...

Reuters - Network Rail fined over engineering delays

Rose-tinted reporting

I am awaiting the BBC Breakfast News to wheel out Sir Michael Rose of M&S to share with us the exclusive news that his dealing with the plastic bags issue.

Now, one could wonder why him, again, when many others are already doing so. But hey.

There are a few other matters I wrote to ask in hope we get get reporting rather than propagandising, especially as a few questions were posed by earlier consumers:

Re: Why not biodegradable plastic bags? Why not paper?

Good questions all. Maybe as a retail expert Sir. Stuart Rose can answer?

Or explain how charging 5p prevents a bag getting into the ecosphere and choking a turtle?

I don't know, which is why I'd like answers.

Are you going to feature other industry experts to cover the whole issue?

*ps: I'm trying to find out.

My information so far is biodegradables/compostables require levels of waste system complement that may not make them as effective as they can be.

Paper may actually be worse for the environment, but not for wildlife.

It probably isn't as simple as made out.


Just watched the man himself on the sofa. Interesting. I thought the plastic bag (well, no one quite seems to know what they are banning or bringing in by way of substitute) must be a dead duck by now, at least with the current level of (mostly pretty mis-informed) negative PR.

But, despite being there to plug Plan A, Sir Stuart fought a pretty good corner. Mind you, he was hijacked at the end by the reporters trying to get him to make the simplistic pledge to 'ban' them outright.

His main focus of defence was the customer is king (the issue of packaging waste vs. food waste as a consequence of cuctomer rejection came up), which is well focussed as a sales spiel, but one wonders how it went down with the PR dept. or Sustainability Manager.

What did impress is that he addressed those two questions above. In detail.

He dragged the authorities back into the recycling issue, which I am sure they are trying to duck in this big time. Also he.... at last.... raised the enviROI aspects. Sadly, of course, this is one where the environment may be split between ECO(logical) and Environmental, at least if one still accepts there are ECO(nomic) drivers that are inevitable.

And he also clarified the actual limitations of many bio/compost options, though it's a shame he had no time to explain the difference betwen a landfill, an in-vessel composter and your back yard effort in dealing with them. Pretty key.

As to turtles, I'm guessing biodegradables may well be better as they must fall apart pretty quick, but as to the effect of what they break down into solution on the ecosphere (plastic soup, anyone?) I am not so sure.

All I know is that clear, balanced information on this is noticeable by its absence. You can expect, and dismiss it from the Daily Mail (though I think they have pretty much nailed the coffin of this aspect of the plastics industry with their reach and influence). I expect better from the BBC.