Research Dossier

There are many different issues that concern the environment and one way that many people have tried to become ecological is by recycling paper, plastic bottles and cans. However the plastic waste outside of the home is far greater. In supermarkets and high street stores there is a lot of plastic packaging being used and not always being recycled. It doesn’t seem like enough people are re-using bags; they just keep using the plastic bags that are provided and most likely end up in the bin or sometimes just out in the street floating around. It’s an issue that should be resolved, we keep being told that the air is polluted yet we don’t make a change and we are running out of time. We want to get more people to re-use bags such as hessian or organic cotton bags and raise awareness and make people change. We need to get more people to take action as a handful of people are not enough to really change. It takes a group effort. The whole of the United Kingdom needs to do their bit for the environment.

- Plastic bag tactics in the UK

In 2006 10.6 billion single-use carrier bags were handed out by supermarkets. In the 12 months to May this year the figure stood at 6.1 billion – a reduction of 43%.

As part of this strategy, supermarkets adopted a range of tactics to encourage customers away from single-use bags, including measures ranging from hiding them at the checkout to charging a small fee for reusable bags.

- Ireland's plastic bag reduction scheme

In May 2002, Ireland was the first European nation to take action. A 15 euro-cent (25c AUD) levy was placed on plastic supermarket checkout bags. It is estimated that the use of disposable plastic shopping bags has been reduced by approx. 90% since the levy was introduced. Prior to its introduction approx. 1.2 billion disposable plastic bags were given away free by retailers. This also saw a decrease in excess of 95% in plastic bag litter.
In the first year after the introduction of the 15c levy just under 90 million bags were bought by the public and this fell to less than 85 million in 2003. But since then the number has been on the up again, to 100 million in 2004 and at least 113 million in 2005, a rise of over a third.
The plastic bag levy has increased to 22 cent today in a further bid to reduce littering. The former minister for the environment Dick Roche announced the rise last February which comes after evidence suggested the initial impact of the tax in 2002 was beginning to weaken.

- Pacific Ocean waste dump

In t­he broad expanse of the northern Pacific Ocean, there exists the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a slowly moving, clockwise spiral of currents created by a high-pressure system of air currents. The area is an oceanic desert, filled with tiny phytoplankton but few big fish or mammals. Due to its lack of large fish and gentle breezes, fishermen and­ s­ailors rarely travel through the gyre. But the area is filled with something besides plankton: trash, millions of pounds of it, most of it plastic. It's the largest landfill in the world, and it floats in the middle of the ocean.

A total of one billion plastic bag were given away by shops as they responded to a government call to improve their record on the environment and the damage plastic bags cause on the environment. Plastic bags are expected to remain intact for 1,000 years and collect in the countryside and in the sea, where they are ingested by and sometime choke marine animals such as gulls and turtles.

- One billion fewer plastic bags given away by shops

Asda, Tesco, Primark, Debenhams, Boots, John Lewis and 15 other high street retailers have been trying different initiatives to reduce the harmful effects of the bag. Their techniques have included reducing bag size, increasing their recycled content, rewarding their reuse, introducing in store bag recycling facilities (up by 43 per cent) and putting cashiers rather than customers in charge of dispensing the plastic bags. Marks and Spencers now charge 5p for a plastic bag following a successful trial done in Northern Ireland.

This is some of the information that we have collected via the internet on various sites relating to plastic. We found that the Pacific Ocean waste dump as quite shocking as we did not realise how much waste it be and how it is also affecting animals. Looking at the difference between the UK and Ireland we saw that we should tackle the problem in the UK and looking at the ways that Ireland have changed has helped give us ideas. It is also something that effects everyone in the world, it’s the environment and we all live in it so it is something that everyone can help to change.

There are other campaigns in the UK that are aimed to stop using plastic bags and re-using. Their aims are to encourage people to reuse their bags and some to hopefully get rid of them altogether. Some retail stores such as Marks and Spencer’s have already started making a change by charging 5p per bag but it’s not quite enough therefore one of the main ways these campaigns are trying to tackle the issue is contacting the government.

The people that will really make a difference is individuals, if they choose to re-use bags instead of using the plastic bags provided then there won’t be a need for them to be made. Everyone needs to pitch in to really help. Retailers could reduce or stop using plastic bags. A way to put pressure on people is to fine or tax them. People will do as much as possible to not spend unnecessary money and by doing this it will make them less reluctant to use the plastic bags. If the government were to enforce this and make it a priority it could be a very effective way of changing the UK. Sending letters to MP’s and raising awareness to people would be the best ways to succeed.

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