Quite why or how our civilisation became convinced that plastics are the very work of the Devil is uncertain. It appears that we’ve allowed the dippier of the hippies to grow up and enter government. But how it happened and why is one thing, we can all observe that it has. And so we get these lunacies like the banning of free plastic bags to shoppers. Entirely forgetting why we started using them in the first place, which is that they were a cheaper and more elegant solution to what we’d been using before. They made us richer that is.
So, because shopping bags are the Very Devil – they’re both plastic and also facilitate dread consumerism – we must make sure that no one does get them for free. Slap a charge upon them. The thing is, this doesn’t work. Attempting to get people to use less plastic has led to people using more plastic:
More than a billion plastic “bags for life” are being handed out annually by supermarkets, undermining their claims to be reducing waste by cutting down on single-use bags. The main retailers are using more plastic overall in their bags for life than in thin single-use bags, on which the government has imposed a 5p charge.
Attempting to reduce the use of plastic increases the use of plastic.
Now do you see why planning an economy is one of those things that doesn’t work? The levers aren’t quite connected, pushing here doesn’t lead to the desired effect that is, pulling might not be connected to anything at all – or even produce the opposite result from that desired.
Of course, there’s always some demented loon screaming harder, faster!
Sarah Baulch, the Environmental Investigation Agency’s senior ocean campaigner, said that supermarkets were undermining the success of the 5p charge for single-use bags by selling bags for life too cheaply. She said that they should charge £1 or more for them.
Presently we all use 1 billion of those bags for life a year. We think they’ve a value to us. Ms. Baluch disagrees, obviously enough. Thus, we should be charged £1 billion a year if we were, with such a charge, to continue in our ways. Or we should be deterred from receiving that value we currently do by not being willing to pay £1 billion for it.
This is known as Pigou Taxation and it’s an entirely valid option. Except, the level of the tax is not to be set at that which will dissuade people from what you don’t think they should be doing. Rather, at the third party or societal cost of their activity. That is, to justify a £1 billion tax we must be able to prove that the activity has £1 billion of costs to people not party to the transactions themselves.
British use of bags for life causes £1 billion in costs to everyone else, does it? We’d like to see the detailed sums if you’re claiming it does but of course the notion itself is tosh. Therefore the tax is not justified.
Sure, we don’t want our plastics use to choke the whales. But then why have policies to reduce plastics use which increase plastics use?