I practically fell over in the aisle at Waitrose last Friday when I was asked whether I would like a bag. A glance to my left confirmed a strange absence of plastic bags. The checkout girl gleefully told me that management that day had issued instructions to hide the bags, and assume customers would bring their own. Suddenly plastic bags are uncool. How did this happen, I wondered? Was this the result of competitor M&S’s announcement the previous day that it was to charge for bags? Was it Gordon Brown’s plan to get tough on plastic bags? Was it Lewes Town Council’s decision last week to step up efforts to help Lewes go plastic bag free? Or was it a compelling (or rather shaming) growing presence on the streets of Lewes of cotton and hessian alternatives?
You could say that plastic bags are a paltry distraction from the devilish things Gordon Brown and co are pushing through: What matter the odd bag in the face of a new Heathrow runway or coal powered station? Complacency is the new denial, and we could be sleepwalking towards our own demise by believing that plastic bags, composting and eating organically are together enough to get us through the survival bottleneck ahead. But perhaps the plastic bag phenomenon illustrates the power of the 100th monkey. This year plastic bags are the new drink driving; next year flying might be. Can we save the world one bag at a time?
Insider information: some of the places generating their own beautiful bags are Lansdown Foods, Harvey’s shop, Bill’s, Wickle, Lewes New School, Gossypium and the Farmer’s Market