Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Jute Bag Jury

It is rare for me to take up the mantle of an environmental campaigner. I am largely unmoved by global warming, I positively seek out E numbers and I have never been able to tell an organic chip from one which has had its full complement of anti-pest chemicals. But occasionally a cause will come along which, in my eyes, appears un-hyped, eminently reasonable, and scientifically verifiable. And this is why I have turned my back on plastic bags.

It was the campaign run by the wildlife photographer, Rebecca Hosking, which caught my attention. She was filming sea turtles in the Pacific and found a number of them dying with plastic carrier bags stuck in their throats. On her return to England she started a
campaign which has led to her home town - Modbury in Devon - becoming the first place in Europe to ban the use of plastic bags for an experimental six month period.

According to the latest
Government figures over 8 billion plastic bags are used by UK shoppers per year. These figures are now seven years old so the total will, most likely, be much higher. It is difficult to avoid some plastic bags without becoming unnecessarily eccentric. I have not yet reached the stage where I demand that my half pound of Walls sausages are liberated from their plastic wrapper at the check-out. But it is easy to avoid the most conspicuous use of plastic bags - the ones which we carry our purchases home in.

Over the last week or so I have acquired a vast collection of jute bags - available at most supermarkets for less than a £1 - and these are what I now use for my shopping. In addition to the environmental benefit, there is something aesthetically pleasing about a jute bag. They put me in mind of sacks of flour. They transport me back to rural idylls, where the sun shines down for ten hours a day, and foaming pints of English beer quench the thirsts of bone-weary hop-pickers (this may, of course, have something to do with the fact that the jute plant is a close relative of the hemp plant). So, be like me, go jute - and see where you are transported to. Whilst you may live to regret it, the sea turtles may live to welcome your conversion to the cause.

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