Discussion Forum
Plastic Bag Campaign - Media Spin or Fact?

From Simon James
Sunday, 23 September 2007

I must admit I'm somewhat perplexed regarding certain aspects of the Plastic Bag Campaign. Whilst I applaud (with a ripple) the motives, I can honestly say I have never witnessed such a poorly constructed and executed, overtly public campaign.

1. It appears the so called 'bag ladies' decided unilaterally to dictate their ideas and principles on our town. Surely some degree of consultation would, at the very least, have been polite and democratic. It is essential in any project to get the stakeholders 'on side'. This tactic reminds me of Margaret Thatcher's habit of announcing 'policies' to the media before she'd even consulted her cabinet! Once publicised the polices were implemented as 'the lady was not for turning'!

2. I object to the dumping of the co-op branded bag which I recently found attached to my front door. I have no need for this bag or its '£1 off your next co-op purchase' voucher contained therein. If every household in Hebden Bridge has received one of these bags then what is the financial and environmental cost of this? Perhaps we should rename the instigators the 'Co-op Bag Ladies'!

3. Despite what I read in the press and see on TV, as a resident, I haven't received a 'leaflet' or any form of publicity from the bag ladies...just an unnecessary and costly promotion from the co-op.

3. I'm proud of Hebdens independent shops and do my best to support them. I shop locally and will try to continue to do so. I'm not happy that one of the few national chain shops, however ethical, is leading this project.

4. Talking to many shop keepers they are confused and do not want to charge for, or change, carrier bags for risk of losing customers. Most are only paying 'lip service'.

5. Talking to many of my friends (consumers and business owners) they feel the project has been dictatorial and they therefore have a negative and almost 'rebellious' attitude.

6. Its quite obvious the bag ladies have excellent access and links to the media. The amount of exposure this project has received is surely unprecedented and doesn't relate to its merit.

7. With the above in mind I genuinely wonder what the actual agenda of these so called 'co-op bag ladies' might be?

8. The Town Council and the local Green Party have been suspiciously quiet in its support of this project. I've read in the local paper that the Town Council refused funding, and then withdrew from 'bag distribution'. Again, I wonder about personal agendas...

9. There is a huge reality gap between the spin I read in the press and what is actually happening in Hebden. Today (an average Saturday) I visited my local butcher (meat supplied in plastic bag), my local off-license (organic rioja supplied in plastic bag), my local music shop (cd supplied in plastic bag) and later a take out curry (again in plastic bag).

10. I'd call myself tuquoise rather than green. However, I do reuse plastic bags for non-recyclable domestic waste. For the first time I've actually purchased a roll of bin liners, just in case! I guess the nett effective is negative?

Hebden Bridge is a beautiful, vibrant and diverse place to live. I'm proud to be a resident and consider there are far more important issues which should be granted the media exposure and energy that this ineffective and facile project has displayed.

From Tim N
Sunday, 23 September 2007

The bottom line is we, as individuals, can choose wether to use plastic bags or not. We all know the environmental impacts of our choice, its up to each of us what choice we make. This applies to most 'green' issues - the bag ladies have raised the profile of this particular issue - whatever thier agenda, its started a discussion!

From Rev Tony Buglass
Monday, 24 September 2007

I have to agree with Tim - the bag campaign takes away the possibility of a responsible degree of choice. I do agree that we were using far too many bags, and they are a major source of pollution. However, not all plastic bags are evil! If we buy a piece of raw meat, it needs to be kept separate from other food in the same shopping for hygiene reasons. Paper wrapping simply is not adequate.

It's a good thing to make people think about what they use, what they need, and the consequences of their actions. Cutting down on the amount of plastic bags going into landfills is definitely a good thing. But making Hebden Bridge into a plastic-free environment (with the implication that everyewhere else should do the same thing) is probably a step too far.

From Anne S
Saturday, 6 October 2007

Well done to those who have moved this forward in Hebden Bridge. I moved to a town, also in Yorkshire a year ago. Since arriving I have not used a plastic carrier bag. I would love to start a campaign here too. Many people tell me they take carrier bags to line their bin with! What are Hebden Bridgers using as an alternative to bin liners?

From Graham Barker
Saturday, 6 October 2007

I think Simon James is much too hard on the bag ladies, who should be applauded for making an effort and getting something positive done about a growing environmental problem.

I can remember when supermarkets charged for each plastic bag and left cardboard boxes out for customers to use. Then, only about 20 or so years ago, they all changed tack and started throwing free plastic bags at us. I don't recall any public consultation about that.

All the bag ladies are trying to do is wind the clock back a few years to the point where we all happily made our own provision for carrying our groceries home. It's a long overdue 'correction' to the belief that plastic bags should be both endlessly available and free, and I can't see what's wrong with it.

From Mandi Paramor
Saturday, 6 October 2007

I have just read all the comments and I have to agree that we have received a lot of media coverage.. and out of proportion to what we have achieved. And no, this doesn't make me go to sleep at night, smug and satisfied - it makes me nervous - because I don't want to be part of something which is more 'style over content'.

Let me put a few things straight. The council gave us £550 for posters and leaflets - done. The Co-op gave us £500 for educational purpose. In the end it was spent on paying Kerbside for distribution of some of the bags as the council were unable to deliver within the desired timescale - done. And Recycle for Calderdale gave us £1000 for a starter pack of 100 corn starch based bags for each shopkeeper that wanted them - done. All that is done and dusted. Yes we have had an extraordinary amount of press, and now the hard work begins...

Ekko at the Alternative Technology Centre will recycle all types of plastic - all plastic containers, polystyrene, bread bags, bottle tops etc. Some of it does go to produce small scale items but the vast majority of it goes to a company making durable park benches. It is a brilliant enterprise and deserves to be funded and supported fully!!

How many times do the words 'It is not a ban' need to be restated? There are shops in Hebden who have decided to keep their plastic carriers, there are some who are using their stocks up and then moving over to corn starch or paper, and there are some who are so far ahead of the game they made the decision years ago to avoid going down the plastic route.. The really exciting thing I see every day is the number of people who are re-using their old plastic bags - great! or bringing their own shopping bags to town - fab! They are not doing this because someone told them to! They have made that decision for themselves. Isn't democracy great?

Can anyone really deny that a huge change has taken place?! When the government brings in a 5-10p tax on plastic carriers, now then we really will be talking 'creative restriction'..

As for the Co-op, the thing is about them is that they are a co-operative!! And therefore are beholden to their members and their local community. Yes they gave you a bag with their name on it!! shocking advertising - but we took a pragmatic approach and used it as a vehicle to get our message across (if you didn't get the leaflet, the message it is on our home page)

And if anyone wants another issue to get really hot under the collar about.. I have been told by a publican that none of the bottles he sells his drinks out of are returnable - they are all one use only - non returnable! This landlord recycles his bottles at the council tip.. what happens to the rest?

See also

Hebweb Forum: Plasticbagfree Campaign

Hebweb Forum: Beyond the plasticbagfree campaign

Hebweb News: Make Hebden Bridge Plasticbagfree