Basket case

IN MAY 2007, the small Devon town of Modbury hit the headlines for being the first to stop handing out plastic carrier bags to shoppers. All 43 shops took part in a six-month trial and it has been a plastic-bag-free zone ever since. No fuss, just common sense.

October 5, 2015, saw the introduction of a 5p charge for carrier bags across England. What has ensued since has been utter chaos.

Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco has been forced to put security tags on baskets to halt the surge in thefts since the Government introduced the 5p levy. Tesco’s Oldham store lost a third of its baskets in a week. I know, I had to read it twice as well. We’re talking about 5p here! Oldham’s Chadderton store has now fitted baskets with tags to stop shoppers using them to take shopping home. Other stores in Manchester and London have been forced to follow suit following the plastic bag ban.

All large retailers must now add 5p for each plastic bag on to the shopping bill when a customer forgets to bring enough of their own bags to carry home shopping. But many people are unhappy with the charge that is set to cost English households hundreds of thousands of pounds over a lifetime and it is likely to fail in its environmental aims according to campaigners. Over ten years the levy will add up to £1.5 billion, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the number of plastic carrier bags handed out in bonnie Scotland in the first year of the 5p levy has dropped by a staggering 80%. That’s the equivalent of 650 million carriers. That’s either been driven by a new caring, greener population north of the border or it is clear, statistical evidence that the Scots really do have short arms and deep pockets. No comment.

Then what if you get to the checkout and discover you’ve left your carrier bags in the car. We’ve all done it. Quick-thinking Khalia Smith from Leyton, East London, decided to pack her groceries back into the wire basket and head for her car and the carrier bags inside it. She was quickly accosted by an over-zealous security guard who accused her of being one of those wire-basket thieves. The showdown in the store’s car park was filmed by her friend Nayima Alie who couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

The argument about whether she could take the wire basket to her car lasted about five minutes, until a fellow shopper stood in and handed Khalia a 5p bag. She has since been offered a £10 voucher by Tesco. I suppose that’s a lot of 5p bags, but it would make more sense to train the security staff in the art of diplomacy and common sense.

IT’S grim up North and it’s about to get a whole lot worse. The British steel industry is in crisis, with the announcement on nearly 1,200 job losses in Scunthorpe and Scotland. Nine hundred jobs will go in Scunthorpe and a further 300 across Scottish sites. The announcement came just days after the announcement of 2,200 steel worker redundancies in Redcar.

Whole generations of families have relied on classic British industries for a living. Fathers and sons followed grandfathers into the steel works or down the pit. The world is a very different place these days, and some will say a lot better for it, but unless the Government does something radical about job losses in this country, we will just create a whole new generation of families where no-one has ever had a job. That’s very grim.

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Kevan Blackadder

Written by Kevan Blackadder

Kevan Blackadder is a media consultant who runs Blackadder Media Limited. Kevan was previously editor of the Gloucestershire Echo and assistant editor of the Bristol Post. A Cumbrian who moved to the South West “for a couple of years” in the 1980s, he can’t quite believe he’s been there ever since.

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