Discussion Forum
Beyond the plasticbagfree campaign

From Patsy F
Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Still thrilled to bits with this campaign and the admirable, determined group behind it, but:

1. I wonder if the bag ladies are going one step further and asking traders to wrap their messier wares eg. wet fish, meat etc., in corn starch bags or paper instead of smaller plastic bags.

2. What about expanded polystyrene trays sealed with clingfilm or heat-sealed plastic? Could we persuade shops not to accept produce in them? Eg: I'm a raspberry (fruit!) maniac, have amassed a stack of the trays since the season began and heartily wish that ALL fruit and veg. could be sold in compostable trays, better still loose like the way my mother bought such things.

3. I'm using basket and cloth bags (halo polished) but what are we going to do with the bags we have in our cupboards? Bags have to be disposed of somehow, and there doesn't seem to be a reliable method of re-cycling them. I've always wondered what exactly Tesco does with all the bags placed in their collection point, and I'm suspicious, to say the least. Sainsbury's new orange bags are vaunted as being degradable, but how long does that take, anyone know? Does orange mean greenwashing?

4. Plastic water bottles. Denmark has now put a deposit charge on them to encourage people to return for, presumably, recycling into new bottles. (Why should water be in plastic anyway?) This also means the odd discarded bottle will be picked up and handed in. (This is an extension of the deposit/return system it's always had on glass beer and soft drink bottles. It's great to buy beers in Denmark and see how almost opaque the bottles are from being sterilised and rattled around filling machines for the umpteenth time! ) Denmark also sells milk and yoghurt in cardboard containers - very good, but with a plastic nozzle and screw cap - not perfect yet.

5. I saw a very moving BBC film about the Hawaiian Islands and the way the ocean currents move floating plastic debris to a concentrated area in the waters there. Laid out on the shore were plastic lighters, razors, toothbrushes, pens, bits of toys, nylon ropes etc., as well as shreds of fishing nets and plastics bags - all retrieved from the gizzards of dead seabirds. Horrifying footage and it's really made me re-think the plastics issue.

6. How long will it be before some idiots release helium balloons into the sky this summer as a charity stunt? This is aerial littering and although balloons are rubber, not plastic, they are just as bad as they kill grazing animals who ingest them, and probably do even more harm than that.

7. I emailed Calderdale about plastic recycling locally: Reproduced here:

Question: I take all sorts of plastics to Eastwood for recycling. Where is it sorted and where do the various types go for recycling? Thanks, Patsy

Answer: At present Calderdale MBC collects plastic bottles only at all 5 Household Waste Recycling Sites. The full containers (skips) are delivered to Bradford material recycling facility (MRF) where the plastics are baled ready for shipment to China.

I note that you take all plastics to the skips, I am sorry to inform you but we request that only bottles are deposited there. Plastic bottles are made from polymers that are versatile and much in demand. Fizzy drinks bottle are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and has the number 1, other bottles, such as detergents are made from high density polyethylene (HDPE) number 2.
Other plastic containers such as yogurt pots, margarine tubs etc can be made from condensed polystyrene or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

I hope that my comments have answered your questions and that you will still continue to recycle.

Many thanks for email and for being a recycler.

Kind regards
Alison Howard
Waste Awareness and Education Officer - end.

So what do I do with the plastics I have already or absolutely can't avoid buying? Do I burn them in the incinerator and pollute the atmosphere like hospitals seem to do with things they discard?

8. I know the Alternative Technology Centre does a great job and used to (maybe still does) collect plastics for recycling into coasters, clipboards etc., but this can only ever be the tip of an enormous iceberg.

We (the world) need a concerted effort in the reduction of plastic everything, computers - what about a wooden one??, toys, TVs etc., etc. ad nauseum and we need to find a way to deal with those plastics for which there's no alternative.

This isn't a posting I'm afraid, it's a total rant! But I'm not sorry for it - I've written as one who's only recently begun to think hard about the impact of the almost-eternal life of the plastic already littering the planet. Of course I'm concerned for us all - birds, animals, fish and human, and I really want to change my own buying habits, but I need guidance. One wonders what eco-damage could be caused by the recycling process anyway, surely plastics would have to be half-melted to create something else? And it would still be - plastic. This issue seems as big and insuperable as climate change and it's causes. Knowing our local population, there are probably dozens and dozens of local people who've given this issue far longer and deeper thought, and I'd like to know what else we can do for our communal bit.

PatsyF XX

PS: On Radio 4 I heard that two African countries are phasing out plastic bags!

From Myra Lesley
Thursday, 19 July 2007

I was very pleased to see Patsy F's comments about the harm to wildlife caused by plastic waste, and also by balloons. I too am appalled every time I see some otherwise worthy cause marred by thoughtless balloon releases. May I add another to the catalogue of horrors? Those terrible and quite unnecessary plastic rings that hold together 4-packs of beer cans. Wild animals can become trapped in these, and having seen a picture of a hedghog so entangled I now pick up any I see on the ground and cut them into small pieces before discarding. On my "to do" list is a letter to breweries begging them to abandon their use. I urge anyone better organised to write one today!

From Christine Bampton-Smith
Thursday, 19 July 2007

Congratulations to the Bag Ladies for making such an impact in such a short space of time.

Let's hope the majority of Traders join the campaign - thanks to those who have joined up so far. I know that there are some practical issues for some traders, but the Bag Ladies are keen to give advice.

I fully support Patsy's rant. Here is a classic - a recent gift from Body Shop - you'd think they would know better - A large stiff card box containing two small items, a toilet water and bath gel, surrounded by plastic. How much better an attractive paper bag would have been!

From Jasper
Thursday, 19 July 2007

Thanks Bag Ladies, for removing my freedom of choice. I wasn't consulted on your plastic bag ban. This appears to have been an single item agenda with no consultation based on the beliefs of a few, enforced through false guilt and the threat of exclusion. I also have my own beliefs but don't enforce those on others.

However, the media campaign is fantastic! Are any of you related to Max Clifford? Coverage on the national news, in the times newspaper, amazing! Many people will love it, keep Hebden Bridge on the map, make themselves feel good, bring in the tourists, keep the house prices high etc.

Especially relevant, when Hebden Bridge faces far more important challenges than minor issue of the effective recycling or reuse of its plastic bags. Have any of you ever been to the Eastwood Recycling Centre?

If you don't want a plastic bag, don't ask for one! But don't affect my lifestyle choice and local shopkeepers livelihoods by enforcing your own irrelevant selfish agenda.

I use my plastic bags to carry the goods I buy from shops back to my home. I then keep the bags to put rubbish in. In light of your proposals I have now visited a large supermarket, purchased rolls and rolls and rolls of various size bin liners, pedal bin liners, dustbin liners etc. Basically, purchasing far more new plastic bags in one go than I would reuse in a year had you not interfered in individual shopping patterns.

Also, should my local butcher not put my meat in a plastic bag, or my local fishmonger do the same, I will shop where the packaging is appropriate to the goods purchased, probably a large supermarket.

Should I receive the promised Coop re-useable bag I intend return it with a note on what I consider they should do with it!

I find it quite pathetic that people are focusing on carrier bags, plastic beers holders, food packaging and other relative minor issues. As I've previously stated; what a wonderful and effective distraction technique, which makes us feel sooooooooo good about ourselves and really helps us sleep at night. Lets all give ourselves a pat on the back! Nero would be proud!

As you can tell I can't help treating this scheme with a huge degree of band wagon jumping cynicism with self-promotion at its centre.

I think the answer to the majority of these issues is therapy for the self obsessed individuals concerned.

The bag ladies don't by any chance make fair trade, organic woven, hemp based, ecologically sound, non discriminatory, recyclable and reusable shopping bags do they?

From Janice S
Friday, 20 July 2007

Well, at least we know how to get rid of our cupboards full of old plastic carrier bags - we can give them all to Jasper! I hope the bin bags he's just bought were made from recycled plastic.

Patsy F - some greengrocers, e.g. Holts, still sell soft fruit in cardboard punnets. I'm not sure about raspberries though - they are so easily squashed. Another possibility which M&S is looking into is to use a percentage of recycled plastic in plastic bottles and food containers. Coca Cola is using thinner plastic bottles so using less plastic. There's an interesting website on this - www.wrap.org.uk/.

There's some good information on plastics recycling on the Recoup website. Apparently some organisations give grants to community groups for recycling projects. There's a free factsheet on this in the Recoup shop. Maybe the ATC could get a grant to relaunch or expand its plastics recycling project. It would be great if they could sell fleeces made from recycled local plastic, like Patagonia and Berghaus do.

The main problem with recycling all the different types of plastics is separating them out but technology is being developed to do this automatically. I suppose this will help, but as Patsy F says, it's better not to have so much plastic waste in the first place. Butchers used to wrap meat in paper, greengrocers would tip vegetables straight into your shopping bag, and it didn't seem to be a problem.

From Graham Barker
Wednesday, 25 July 2007

I'm all for more recycling of plastics but am depressed by the phrase 'shipment to China' in Calderdale's response to Patsy. Unless we can find ways of recycling large volumes of plastic more locally, it's difficult to see how using energy to get bales of plastic from West Yorkshire to China benefits the environment. And once it gets to China, how is it treated? I bet Calderdale doesn't know or care. Until very recently, Calderdale's attitude to plastics (basically, let's pretend they don't exist) has been shameful, but I would have thought better of Bradford.

Does anyone with relevant expertise know why plastics can't be reprocessed on a large scale closer to home?

From Bernie Smith
Wednesday, 25 July 2007


Plastic could be recycled locally, however there needs to be enough demand for the plastic- something I don;t think we have.

China, (I'm sure they make everything!) are in a better position to use the recycled plastic for their mass (over) production,

Hope this answers your question.

From Rick Hamilton
Thursday, 26 July 2007

I think that the campaign to reduce plastic bags is great: well done, bagladies.

But let's not forget that the guidance is reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order. So if we've got loads of plastic bags at home, shouldn't we reuse them until they wear out? Recycling them when they work perfectly well is a waste of energy.

While I'm at it, I went into Morrison's the other day. They shrink-wrap each of the peppers that they sell. That's one reason why I use our local greengrocer.

From Janice S
Saturday, 28 July 2007

While I was searching for 'greenhouses' on the web I found an interesting way to re-use plastic bottles. A Scottish Community Group has made greenhouses and windbreaks from them OK - they're not going to be as sturdy as commercial ones, but it looks an interesting idea for schools. The windbreaks look quite easy (and being transparent the teachers can keep an eye on what's going on!)