Posts Tagged ‘ environment ’

A Plastic Bag in the Eye.

EyeOnWales found itself wading into an impressively pointless argument on the good ol’ 5p plastic bag debate last week. In an argument of head banging against the wall proportions, we found a bizarre blogger ranting about the sinister nature of businesses exploiting the 5p bag law to generate revenue and supply low grade bags to customers, while simultaneously suggesting that the Welsh Government policy had been a failure in the first place, having no impact on bag usage, and in turn, no positive impact on the environment (this was all before said blogger descended into a diatribe on the state of Wales generally, including the Welsh language in a wonder moment of gogwatch-esque randomness – suffice to say it was not the most sensibly of constructed arguments that we’ve come across this year).

So, it was with some pleasure that the results of a couple of reports were published by the Welsh Government today, giving some indication as to the actual impacts of the 5p bag legislation. Without wanting to totally rehash the original press release, the key figures can be summarised in 70% of the survey sample now supporting the legislation, backed up by over 80% of customers making use of reusable bags, with food retailers in particular recording an impressive 96% reduction in bag use. This was coupled with the Keep Wales Tidy charity being held up as an example of one of the beneficiaries of the redirected funds from those bags which remain sold, tipping the £100,000 mark.

Now, when the evidence suggests such massive reductions in plastic bag use, with wide scale public support for the new form of legislation, topped off with large scale charitable donations, can it really be described as a failure? If this is a failure then lets hope new legislation introduced in the future has a similarly catastrophic rate of success! Now let’s be clear, the Labour led government in Cardiff is not having the best of times of it, and Carwyn’s lumbering speech today on the trident issue was a particularly good example of the bad on offer. But that is not to say that all is bad, and on this piece of legislation, Wales has a success story, and one perhaps, even if it is held in temporary isolation, that we might be proud of.

Well done WG, you’ve got something right, now work on all the rest of it!

 

Blowing Up Buzzards: Nature Conservation.

There is not a lot to be said for DEFRA (newly branded today as the Department for the Eradication of Feral Rural Animals). Rarely a season goes by when they fail to infuriate great sections of the British public, while pissing off a fair few Europeans at the same time. Now, having spectacularly failed to impress anyone on the issue of badger culls, the new public enemy of the British rural landscape is the buzzard.

For those unaware, badgers were considered for widespread executions for chemical warfare activities. It appears that secret badger cells had been operating in secure locations, under trees and in prehistoric burial mounds, orchestrating the distribution of the toxin known only as TB, to cattle throughout the country. While there was never any firm evidence of the existence of these weapons of mass inconvenience, badgers were still fingered for on the spot execution.

Now buzzards are on the hit list as well. Their crime, the occasional consumption of baby pheasants. I’m sure we are all in agreement that those terrible buzzards should indeed be lined up against a wall, shot three times to the head, before being disposed of for distribution in canine treat tins for their most heinous crime of eating to stay alive. But wait, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Why is DEFRA looking to protect these baby pheasants? Well so that they can grow up into slightly bigger pheasants for people to shoot of course.

For the buzzard, I would suggest rehabilitation, rather than incarceration or execution. If buzzards can be trained to emit a horse like laugh, inherit a country estate, master the art of being dressed in tweed by a butler, before equipping themselves with a shotgun, then their rights to blow ten bags of crap out of the same pheasant is perfectly acceptable. If they continue to kill pheasants in a way that is in their nature, then they themselves should, naturally, be exterminated in turn.

As solutions go, it’s about as rational as the initial argument.

5p Plastic Bag Threat Grips Nation.

One woman not afraid of the threat of plastic bags.

It might be an indictment on the Welsh Governments’ agenda, that the most news worthy story coming out of the Senedd these days is one that follows the reactions of a nation to the looming dread of individuals having to pay 5 pence for a plastic bag in shops. Or perhaps it is an indictment on many in the nation, that so many should prove to be sounding so indignant towards the reality of having to pay what could be found dropped on a pavement for a single plastic bag. Whoever we feel in the mood to indict, the reality is that shoppers in Wales will, as of tomorrow, be facing up to the fact that, occasionally, and in some circumstances, they will have to pay a little extra should they wish to take home their shopping in a carrier bag, made of plastic, and provided by the shop. Exciting isn’t it?

Well, exciting is not the phrase that would be chosen here. It is a story of passing interest perhaps but little more. Indeed, one of the most impressive parts of the public reaction to this Welsh Government policy, is that so many companies have been charging for the use of their plastic bags for much longer, and mores the point, have been charging more for the privilege (10 pence in many cases). Yet coverage of this story dominates the Welsh media, and has received plenty of attention on the BBC 24 hour news channel. It is a fine enough policy in many respects, though one wonders why the Labour group did not take things further. 5 pence per plastic bag, in relation to the well discussed environmental arguments, seems a fair price to pay (indeed, the bag is a product provided by a company, a price of pennies for a product, environment debates to one side, seems a fair price to pay), yet Labour could have taken the move to ban them outright – that would have been newsworthy.

So the steady stream of voxpops roll out, gibbering of ‘it’s good for the environment’, ‘I already have a bag for life’, face off against ‘how can they expect us to afford it when the country is in the state it’s in’ and ‘it’s not fair, it’s not fair’…

It’s a tough one to argue against, not coherently anyway. There are too many bags floating around Wales, as well as plenty of other places in the world. Will a 5p bag tax fix this? No, not entirely, but it is a start, and frankly, given the UK governments plans to inject more money into collecting more waste, this seems an immanently more environmentally conscious scheme. As for those who seem to be hailing the impending 5penny bag as the coming of the end of days, what exactly do you think will happen as a negative consequence of this proposal? Will the elderly be financially crippled by the cost of a bag so much so that they will fear shopping in the first place? Will those on benefits be left to drop dead in the streets as they weigh up the choice of a bag over rice, a bag over vodka, a bag over cigarettes? Will families with more than one child to raise, be forced to leave their other offspring behind the bike sheds, because they just can’t afford to maintain another mouth as well as their five a week shopping bag habit? Of course not. It’s a damnable 5 penny price on a plastic bag. You can afford it, it won’t ruin your life, and it might just help to make the world slightly better for the rest of us.

It’s not exciting stuff from the Senedd, but it’s also not the end of the world. So stop your bleating, look behind the sofa before heading to the shops for those five small pieces of bronze coin, or better yet, keep the bloody bag you bought last time.

But come on Wales – please get over yourself, it’s 5p for a bag, not a taxation policy on our ability to produce blood, just relax, take the medicine (prescribed for free by the way) and let’s get on with our lives without letting the rest of the UK think this is the most pressing matter to trouble our lives here.