We’ve a useful sign here that we’re in the grips of a religious mania – the government is to ban the kiddies using clingfilm to wrap their packed lunches. This following on from another arm of government’s announcement yesterday that they’re to make the Big Mac illegal. That this is mania of the religious kind is easy enough to show. If we begin with a standing start, that government should insist upon a law to make children’s sandwiches stale, one to make them fall apart, then we’d all insist that the ergot has got into the bread again. Perhaps that some other madness inducing chemical was infesting the water supply in the committee rooms. And yet we’ve got here by stages, as religions do. The same way the Catholic Church ends up saying that condom use is indeed permissible but only between a married couple, only if one or other has HIV and even then there must be a hole in it.
That is, it’s entirely logical assuming that we accept the initial claims but we end up somewhere ridiculous – thus it’s the initial claims which require the analysis.
Here the initial claim is that there’s something wrong with our using plastics in the first place. Sure, this has long been a contention of the madder end of the environmentalist spectrum. Among those who don’t bother to think about what we used before plastics, who therefore don’t understand the vast saving of scarce resources they enable. The contention that we shouldn’t use plastics is incorrect in the first place.
In order to sell this we’ve been told that the plastics being thrown away end up choking the whales. And undoubtedly some does but it’s not the stuff we’re using in Britain which does. Near all ocean plastic comes from one of two sources. A goodly portion, some 50% by some counts, comes from fishing equipment. Rather obviously that’s always going to be used at sea anyway. The rest comes from some 10 African and Asian rivers – from places which don’t have a waste collection system other than tipping it into the river and thus the ocean.
Form 3b’s sandwich wrappers, used in Burnley at the Wee Free Methodist primary school, really do not end up adorning turtles in the Pacific. But we’re told that Form 3b must stop using clingfilm on their packed lunches to save those turtles. We’re in the grips of a mania here folks and the religion is anti-plastic.
Parents could be told not to wrap their children’s sandwiches in cling film under plans to make all schools plastic-free within three years, ministers are announce. It comes as the government announces that the 5p charge for shopping bags is to be doubled to 10p, in a major escalation in the war on plastic. The new charge will cover not just major supermarkets but will be extended to 253,000 medium sized stores and smaller corner shops currently exempted from the rules. Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said schools and parents must also now play their part in helping to preserve the environment. He urged headteachers to stop using items such as plastic straws, bottles, food packaging and plastic bags and opt instead for sustainable alternatives. Schools aiming to go plastic free could also encourage parents to be more environmental, for example, by sending children in with items in their packed lunches that have recyclable or reusable packaging.
They’re mad. Everyone’s forgotten why we started to use plastic in the first place. It’s cheaper and better than all of the alternatives – that’s why tens of millions of us voluntarily use it every day. Yes, there is indeed that possible choke the whales problem but we don’t do that anyway. Because we have a waste management system – the local councils have been running one for a century and more now. They have lorries which come around to the house and pick stuff up and take it away. We simply don’t dump it all into the rivers and thus the ocean.
The justification on offer doesn’t work even within the religious logic on offer that is. Use of plastic in Burnley or not will make no difference to sea life – yet we must not use it to save sea life. Religious mania and nothing else. And yes, wander around shouting that the way to deal with plastic waste is to burn it and get a bit of heat in return and you really are a heretic these days.
Sadly, or interestingly if you’re inclined that way, history teaches us that there’s really only one cure for such eruptions of religious mania. Auto da fe – should provide a nice day out for the kiddies and we can always use their sandwich wrappers as the kindling, can’t we?