Green Column 5: The ‘Bag For Life’ Con

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By Luke Walter on 21.2.2024

Green Column 5: The ‘Bag For Life’ Con

As strange as it may sound, this environmentalist detests the so- called ‘bag for life’. Be it made from 100% recycled material or not, I detest shoppers purchasing such bags and I detest the use of such bags. ‘Why?’ you may say. I would say ‘Because it’s a con’. Not only a con, but one of the worst environmental and consumer cons.

The first use of the ordinary plastic bag goes back to 1957. During the 1960’s it became more widespread, and by the 1980’s it had taken over from paper as the consumer choice for shopping bags. So why do I support something made from non- renewable resources (petrochemicals) and when not recycled properly or simply thrown away is a potential problem for wildlife? I support the plastic bag because it is ingenious, not only as a brilliant re-useable invention, but also as something strong and preserving. They can be re-used in a number of ways, either as shopping bags, storage bags (keeping bread in a tied up plastic bag is a suitable preservative) and can also be used a small rubbish bag (it can encourage a consumer to recycle more and waste less). The amazing thing is it’s completely FREE!

The ordinary plastic bag can be re-used over and over again; one does not need to stock up on ‘bags for life’ because no bag really is ‘for life.’ Whilst some ‘green’ bag schemes like pursue a ‘sociable guerrilla bagging’ campaign by making plastic bags out of recycled and unwanted material is in principle an ethical approach, I believe it is a waste of recyclable resources which are best served elsewhere. Rather than launch a ‘Green Bag Scheme’ such as Tesco have, why do supermarkets and businesses not promote the use of the ordinary plastic bag over and over again? Once the ordinary plastic bag’s shelf-life has been reached return to the supermarket and recycle your bag. No tax necessary and no ten pence purchase of a new ‘bag for life.’

The common plastic bag is already a bag for life it need not be replaced by the ‘green’ gimmick bags handed out by supermarkets, or ‘sociable guerrilla bagging’ campaigns. All it requires is common sense by the consumer as to the most efficient and intelligent way to use the ordinary plastic bag. Don’t waste it, reuse it!


  • I am not sure I agree with some of the sentiments expressed in this article.

    Firstly, not all bags come free, for the very cheapest supermarkets they do charge (Such as LIDL and ALDI) though, of course, most shops do indeed furnish customers with a free bag. This could change in the future though, with the Government considering the results of a plastic bag tax in Ireland.

    Also, I the point of the bag for life is that they last significantly longer than normal platic bags. The only way shops can sustain free bags is to keep the costs as low as possible, therefore there is a compromise on quality.

    I do think that plastic bags are more helpful in that they are disposable to use in a way that bag for life isnt.

    By Arjun Mittra on 21.2.2024

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