Sir; Last week’s Saturday Essay on plastic bags (p30) was full of myth and misinformation.
The Scottish authorities have spent 18 months getting at the facts. The expert reports show that plastic bag taxes would not only bring no environmental benefit, they would condemn Scotland to an additional 11,000 tonnes of extra waste. How?
Plastic bags of all types (including bin bags and sacks) comprise 0.3% of all landfill compared with 25% for paper and card. The plastic carrier is the best environmental choice, having a smaller environmental impact than any other option (except the bag for life). Nor do plastic bags waste oil - they use by-products of oil such as ethylene, naptha and propylene that would otherwise have to be flared off. So while people drive cars, we may as well put these by-products to excellent use.
Next, Defra research showed that 80% of households reuse their plastic carrier bags for everything from binliners to collecting dog droppings. When deprived of this, the Irish turned to buying plastic bin bags and refuse sacks. This is why statistics show no change in the amount of plastic (for bags) imported into Ireland after the tax .
But the most horrifying expert conclusion was the likely switch from plastic to paper. In Scotland alone this would add 11,000 tonnes of extra waste to be collected, transported and disposed of. In landfill this would be disastrous - as paper (unlike plastic) decomposes to CO2 and methane.