Azara Blog: Government advisor says plastic bag hatred is a diversion

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Date published: 2008/05/17

The BBC says:

Plans to ban or charge for single-use plastic bags are a diversion from the real environmental issues, one of the government's own advisers has said.

Waste and recycling expert Professor Chris Coggins said such a government policy allowed the supermarkets to pass on responsibility to customers.

He said supermarkets could be helping to influence packaging rather than shifting the problem on to consumers.

The government said the public wanted to see action to curb use of the bags.

"Supermarkets have a much bigger role to play in influencing the packaging they use," said Professor Chris Coggins, who was appointed research managing agent for the Department of Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra) waste research programme in 2005.

"They [supermarkets] have power in terms of what they buy and how it's packed. The problem is, by focusing on the consumer end, they are to some extent diverting attention from what they should be doing."

Coggins is correct about one thing. Banning plastic bags is a silly diversion. But on his other point he is taking the piss. It is not the supermarkets who have been getting hysterical about plastic bags the last few years. It is the academic middle class people who run the country, and in particular who run the media (e.g. the BBC), who have been getting hysterical about plastic bags. (It is quaint that the BBC refers to these people as "the public", when in fact they are only a very narrow partisan slice of the public.) The only positive thing about this diversion is that as a result they have had less time to get hysterical about some other non-issue.

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