Plastic Bag Apocalypse?

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? TOO BAD. That’s 5p now, mate.

A 5p charge on plastic bags has been  introduced in all major supermarkets across Britain. By the time you read this, it’ll probably all be over. Society, that is. The UK will have descended into a rotting necropolis of explosions and screaming. The Ouse will run red with blood. The M6 will have become Fury Road, and Jeremy Corbyn will be sitting atop a throne lashed together from steel and corpses, muttering his decrees to the battered skull of Tony Blair. Shots at Willow nights will cost £2.

So yeah. Sorry about that. Hope you had a nice Freshers’ Week.

Maybe all that sounds like the rantings of a madman, but the real media’s not doing any better. The Manchester Evening News promised a “revolution at the tills”, as anonymous people made promises on the internet to abandon hundreds of pounds of shopping at the tills in order to “send a message”. The Telegraph argued the charge could “threaten jobs” and spread E coli, which causes kidney failure or even death.

“PLASTIC BAG CHAOS LOOMS,” screamed the Daily Mail. In fact, the Mail gets extra points, firstly for having a great big picture of their ‘BANISH THE BAGS’ campaign under the headline, and secondly for including an ingenious tip inside to get around the tax by bringing YOUR OWN plastic bags to the supermarket, or even a bag for life! YEAH! Take that, GOVERNMENT! Should have thought of that one, shouldn’t you?

But I think The Mirror won this round, warning its readers of “attacks on staff by angry shoppers as carrier bag charge starts today”. Both mental and physical attacks. As if being denied the right to free carrier bags is what will tear away our last vestiges of humanity and reduce us all to feral beasts, so that Nanna ends up gumming a checkout assistant to death in a fit of rage and confusion.

Essentially, the media has been spitting more vitriol on this than a story about the Welsh rugby team snubbing the Queen while shooting a lion in Zimbabwe. Although speaking of the Welsh, they’ve been mostly bemused by this whole thing, since over there they’ve been charging 5p for a plastic bag since 2011 (the same goes for Scotland and Northern Ireland).
Far from devolving into a dystopic wasteland where tribesmen hunt floating plastic bags with spears, the legislation’s actually raised £22mn for environmental charities and caused a 71 per cent decline in plastic bag use. If the same results carried over here, England could end up using 5.4 billion fewer plastic bags, while potentially raising £550mn for various good causes.

Personally, I think the plastic bag charge is probably a good thing. While it’s not going to save the world on its own – though the world uses 5tn carrier bags a year, some estimates they only represent 1 per cent of landfill waste – it’ll still have a marked impact on the environment, especially near beaches. Plastic bags kill a million sea birds and 100,000 animals such as whales, dolphins, turtles and seals each year. Cutting that number down can be no bad thing.

So maybe the apocalypse isn’t due quite yet. And tell you what – if it turns out I’m wrong and society crumbles, I hereby give you permission to eat my body if it helps you survive. Now THAT’S journalistic integrity!

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