Taxing the wrong people

A recent story in the news is the proposed 5p a bag tax on carrier bags.
I’d like to share my thoughts on the subject with you, if you’ll let me.

I’m not going to dwell on the main fact that it may well never happen.  Why not?  Well… it’s a policy that will be proposed by the liberals if they are in power after the next election.  Let’s face it, everyone will say that the liberals have done nothing while ‘in power’ so there’s no point voting for them again.
It happened before, in 1974-1977, when the liberals teamed up with labour – and the last election was the first time since then that the liberals had even a taste of power.  Prior to that, it was WWII.  So look to the liberals again in thirty to forty years.

No, I’m going to talk about why the tax is wrong.

Let’s start with a bit of history.

As a child, I remember shopping trips with my dear Mama.  She always took a shopping bag with her.  IN that bag there was a collection of other bags, including the string bag in a plastic box.  The box was about the size of a matchbox, and inside it was the bag which when taken out was big enough to hold as much as you would get into four supermarket carrier bags.

In that one bag she took to the shops, Mum had the carrying capacity to bring home an entire weeks shopping!

One day, there was just a little too much shopping, and she had to buy a carrier bag.  Note that: she had to buy it.
That bag was of a similar strength to the ‘reuseable’ bags of today, and she used it for years.

And that bag had the name of the supermarket printed on it.  I’ll always remember what Mum did (and my partner just said to me ‘so that’s where you get it from!’).  She turned that bag inside out, so the name was not visible!

Her view was that she wasn’t going to pay to advertise their shop.

By the time I married and was doing the shopping for my own household, things had moved on.  I had (still have, actually) a couple of folding nylon bags, and a collection of supermarket carriers – which I took with me when I shopped.  Carrier bags were free by this point, but they were still strong enough to re-use, so I did.

Of course, if I was re-using a bag, I made a point of using Asda bags in Tesco, and Sainsbury bags in Morrisons, etc.  If I only had bags from the supermarket I was in, I would turn them inside out so the name couldn’t be seen.  No way was I going to advertise for them – in fact, there is absolutely no point in advertising the shop you’re in to the people there, they already know about it, don’t they?  No, makes much more sense to advertise a shop that they aren’t in, surely?

Supermarkets didn’t like this, for some reason.  After all, the main purpose of the carrier bags is advertising.  You thought it was for your benefit?  You’re really that naive?

Ask yourself this: if the main purpose is helping the customer, why are the bags not strong enough to re-use?  Why were they so keen to have you use their bags?  Why do they pay extra to have their name printed on them?
I’ve had the experience (years ago, now) of a supermarket re-bagging my shopping into their own bags, and trying to throw away the bags I’d put it in myself.  They were really unhappy when I demanded my bags back, and then put the packed bags inside my own bags, so another stores name was displayed.

Today, the carrier bags we are given are so weak that the question is not whether we can re-use them, it’s can we get the shopping home once!

So.  My veiwpiont.  All my adult life, supermarkets have insisted that I take their free bags, so that I can advertise their store for them.  All my adult life, supermarkets have trained me that they will give me a bag to take my shopping home.

Now it’s time for the supermarkets to put things right.  Making the shoppers pay a tax is not the right way forward.  Make it illegal for them to give away non biodegradable bags.  Make it compulsory for them to give reusable bags to every customer – and not just one bag, but enough bags to carry all their shopping.

Make the supermarkets carry the cost of putting right the problem that they caused.

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