Plastic bags

by Antonio Pasolini on January 17, 2008

As we reported here, China is banning plastic bags, an initiative that may have caught many Westerners by surprise as we tend to think of China as the big environmental culprit. India has done the same in some of its states and now Australia is proposing it. I don’t see it happening in Europe and it should have already happened. In Germany they don’t give you plastic bags, but you have the option to buy it for five Euro cents, which really won’t stop anyone from using them.

The developed world needs to revise its self perception when it comes to environmental and ethical issues and stop deluding itself that it’s always more advanced than the rest. Europe may not be shrouded in smoke as it may have been in the past, but it pollutes in faraway countries, travels like there’s no tomorrow, buys products made by child slaves and fill their homes with unnecessary goods. People’s assumption that it is their divine right to afford whatever they wish is part of an imperialist attitude to the world.

As a person who lives in London, it is sad to see the resistance that people here have to simple changes like recycling. It’s a cultural attitude: the English are averse to change and they often have to spend millions of words until they reach an agreement. Meanwhile, they shop and waste until they drop.

A simple example: I had to get a takeaway yakisoba the other day as I didn’t have time for lunch. For a simple purchase like that the shop used: a plastic disposable tupperware for the food itself; a thick, hard plastic bag for the food container and, if I hadn’t stopped the assistant, she would have given me plastic cutlery and five (!) napkins. Luckily I had my own bag so I could avoid the plastic bag too. But all around me, people were very happy to use whatever materials were given to them, with no apparent concern. In fact the assistant was surprised when I told her that I didn’t want the napkins, the bag and the cutlery. Which means that my behaviour was exceptional. Is this what we call civilization? I don’t think so.
(Image courtesy of

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