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Plastic Free Market Forces

Plastic's been getting a lot of attention recently.  In the two years since the UK introduced a 5p tax on Plastic bags, supermarkets here have started to wake up to the issue of plastic pollution, and  make the inevitable marketplace manoeuvres to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they're using, as the zero-waste movement gains momentum along with other insane and radical ideas about not destroying the only planet we have to live on while making it a living hell for just about every other intelligent species we can find (among "millennials", in particular, who are ruining everything, you know).

Here's a fun fact: if you use one of the self-service counters in Morrison's or Tesco, and select "no bag" from the touchscreen when you pay, the robots won't know you're lying if you use one anyway, and so you won't have to pay the 5p tax.  I know this because I've done it.  I've done it because I'm a terrible person.  (I try to go zero waste, but I keep lapsing).   I only mention Morrison's and Tesco because those are the supermarkets I happen to use with any regularity.  You can probably get away with it in Sainsbury's, too.  And because I'm not only a terrible person but also astonishingly thick, I doubt I'm the only one who's realised this.  So you have to wonder how much of a reduction in plastic bag use the scheme has actually achieved.

A recent Tesco shareholders' meeting

It doesn't make the scheme a bad idea, of course.  Taxation can and does influence consumption to some degree, and when taxes on bad things are used to promote good things, society benefits; but it does expose its limitations.  Where options exist, people will still take them, even when they are demonstrably harmful.  People still smoke cigarettes (not quite as much as they once did, granted) even though are insanely expensive and it says right there on the packet that doing so will kill you slowly and painfully.  Because people (and not just me) are astonishingly thick.  A better alternative, which takes account of our irrationality and idiocy, is to take away the option altogether.

Of course, it's less likely that supermarkets are going to stop selling cigarettes any time soon, because there's still plenty of profit to be made there.  They aren't going to stop selling animal excretions and corpses as food, either, for exactly the same reason.  (Just in case you were worrying this post was about to mutate into a praising of the ineffable glories of free market - don't worry, it's not).  There's no profit to be made selling disposable Plastic Bags, however.  Hence, ASDA's recent announcement of its plans to axe them altogether.

This is infinitely preferable.  You can't nick plastic bags when there aren't any to nick.   We can't choke our oceans with them when they're not being made in the first place.  If they are, some of them inevitably will end up as polluton, no matter how great the awakening to the environmental crisis becomes.  Better never to make any more plastic bags ever again.  Ban their production completely, perhaps.  Re-use, recycle and re-purpose any plastic you already have, and then eliminate it as much as possible from your life.  The government will get the message.  The market will, too.  Most importantly of all, so will the planet.  Which is the only planet we have, thicky.

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This post first appeared on A Possible World, please read the originial post: here

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Plastic Free Market Forces


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