I think UK supermarkets must be almost unique in Europe – they try to give you extra free plastic bags for your shopping, even when you don’t want them! In the rest of Europe, the situation is the opposite. The state needs to do something about it.

I was behind a mother and her daughter doing some shopping at the large Sainsbury’s in Clapham today. Their ??80 of shopping filled about 10 or 12 plastic bags, and the shop assistant wanted to just give them more. She had even started to pack my shopping into yet another bag before I managed to intervene and stated that I had brought my own bags.

So it’s only a bag you say? Well, if every family uses 10 bags for its weekly shopping, or maybe an average of 2 bags per person in the UK per week, that makes 60 million x 52 x 2 = 6,240,000,000, i.e. more than 6 billion bags! And most of that will just go into landfill sites.

The solution: tax people to change their behaviour. I mean both the behaviour of the stores, and the shoppers. 10p tax on each and every plastic bag. So the family I mention above can pay ??1 or so for the privilege of new bags, or else re-use bags instead. It’s a small change in behaviour, easy to implement, and it’s not really a massive infringement on personal liberty.

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