Misguided assault on the plastic bag

Peter Davis Director-general, British Plastics Federation Sir; One has to seriously question the priorities of the Prime Minister that he should concern himself with plastics bags when the country has troops in Iraq, has growing financial problems, and crime and healthcare are of major public concern. His kneejerk reaction, elaborated in a Daily Mail article, was caused by a confection of the Mail's hunger for news, the government's own desperate search for a good news story and the marketing tactics of retailers. It had little to do with a cool assessment of the environmental impact of bags which, as the Carrier Bag Consortium has demonstrated, have a very good environmental story. It has also left aside the examination of personal responsibility. People do not have to accept bags if they don't want them and, if they do, should not dispose of them thoughtlessly. Shipowners and their employees should carry the can fordumping at sea. It is pointless to blame the product for disgraceful human behaviour. Closer to home, the government should focus on the root of the problem and not a symptom. Centrally conceived waste management strategies are falling flat on their face in their implementation by a patch-work of local authorities each with different priorities, balances of rural and urban areas, population densities and transport networks. Until we have centralised waste management implementation to create economies of scale and harmonised approaches, the full potential of plastics recycling, which has grown so much in recent years, will not be exploited at an affordable cost. Nor will energy from waste facilities be deployed on a wider scale, supported by a much-needed Defra led campaign.