We are awash in plastics.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous single-use plastic is the plastic bag. Worldwide we use nearly 2 million plastic bags per minute, adding up to a trillion bags per year. City, state and national governments have taken steps to cut down on plastic bag pollution by introducing fees or outright bans on plastic bags.
One such measure taken in England requires large businesses to charge for single-use plastic bags, about 8 cents per bag. Enacted in October 2015, the small fee is supposed to discourage the use of plastic bags and encourage shoppers to transition to reusable bags instead.
The environmentally-minded plan has run into a major obstacle: instead of paying the fee associated with the bags, people are just stealing them.
Nearly 40 million dollars worth of plastic bags have been stolen since last year. According to a poll by VoucherCodesPro.co.uk, half of English shoppers say they have taken a plastic bag without paying.
The reasons behind the theft vary. Some people don’t like the idea of companies making money from the bags. Some thought it was a waste of money. And others simply did it because they thought no one would notice.
While plastic bag usage at supermarkets has gone down by 80%, the fact that so many people are stealing bags is troubling, and not just for environmental reasons. The British government hopes that the plastic bag fee will raise more than a billion dollars to give to charities, with retailers choosing which charities will receive the funds. When people steal the bags, they rob those charities as well.
This is an example of how small actions can add up to big consequences. Hopefully, scofflaw Britons will change their ways and ditch the plastic bags.