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I’ve only had about 15 carrier bags from shops this year – it was a new year’s resolution: I would say no whenever I could and therefore cut down my personal use of plastic carrier bags.  The biggest win has been “town” shopping.  When I used to feel a new skirt had to go in an M&S carrier, I now pop it in a pre-existing bag of my own.  It’s been a successful campaign and one I urge you all to join.  The only down side is that shopkeepers do often give me funny looks and on a bad day I can seem a little crotchety with them, when I insist that I can carry a sandwich, drink and packet of crisps without the aid of their bag…

But, I’ve noticed something worrisome, which is this.  Since my campaign and since it rightly became hard to get a free carrier bag in supermarkets, we’ve acquired a very large number of re-usable bags.  Many of them so-called bags-for-life; when I count mine, I see a long life ahead of me.  Many are hessian; carrying various worthy messages.  A few are cloth; my personal favourite from the 2005 Hay Festival.  I came to realise a fundamental flaw, I had got into the habit of buying a re-usable bag whenever I liked the look of it, because it was better than using a shop plastic bag.

Since that “obvious with hindsight” realisation, I then discovered a far more fundamental truth.  If I want to reduce my impact on the world’s ecosystem, then the carrier bag in which I place my shopping is the wrong worry.  The right worry is the shopping itself.  What junk have I bought, so that I can carry it in a re-useable bag.  What clothes have I worn no more than a handful of times.   How many times do I need to buy the paper at the weekend, before I realise I really should read it before it goes in the recycling pile…

So now, I go shopping with a small re-useable bag and mostly only buy those things that I really need. Oh, and if anyone knows a good place to recycle bags for life, let me know…

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