Industry should unite over plastic bags, says Pafa

UK plastic bag furore is misplaced and could cause more damage.

Hysteria surrounding the use of plastic bags is demonising plastic as a material and lays open the entire industry to attack, according to a UK trade body.

The Packaging and Films Association (Pafa) said it wants to see the plastics industry promote the benefits of the material. This could help combat anti-plastic and anti-bag campaigns such as that launched this week by UK newspaper, The Daily Mail.

The tabloid ran its front page – with a headline “banish the bags” – on the issue with the subsequent six pages also devoted to the subject. On its front page it described the material as “plastic poison”.

Pafa spokesman, Peter Woodall, said: “The entire plastics industry needs to be aware – that although it [plastic bags] is a very small percentage of the industry – plastics as a twenty first century material is being demonised. And the industry needs to promote the fact that modern society can’t live without it [plastics].”

Pafa argued bag campaigns divert attention from huge environmental issues such as global carbon emissions. It has long argued that forcing customers to switch to heavier alternative bags and increased packaging has a detrimental impact on the environment.

It maintained this view after attending the Waste Resources Action Programme (Wrap) meeting yesterday, which looked at how retailers were voluntarily implementing measures to reduce plastic bag use.

The carrier bag initiative ( 28 February 2007) aimed to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bag use by 25% by the end of this year. The voluntary agreement has resulted in a 14% reduction so far, which is half way to meeting the target half way into the project.

Prime minister, Gordon Brown, said today unless retailers meet this target he will force them to charge customers for bags.

Woodall argued angrily that Brown has jumped on the bandwagon: “From cradle to grave plastic has a smaller environmental impact than say paper and the reality is people have been switching to paper as a result of scaremongering.

“And it’s a smokescreen – it’s obscuring reality. Brown has taken a political route rather than promoting the science and reality. We need to maintain a rigorous approach to science as opposed to spin.”

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