My Life of Plastic Bags & Recycling

My Life of Plastic Bags & Recycling

Valletta Harbour, Malta. Picture by Henry Trotter, 2003
The following article was written by Pamela Hansen.  Pamela Hansen is a writer living in Malta.  Reprinted by permission of the author.

Quality of Life

Do we still have an entity that protects consumers here?  Is it dormant or extinct?  Can someone explain to me why customers are getting such a bad deal?

The back seat of my car has always looked like a bag lady's trolley, because, fool that I am, I think that trudging (well not exactly, because I drive there) to the recycling bins (only with bottles now) makes a difference to our environment.

When I drove past what will no doubt become Malta's twin towers not far from Mount Maghtab the other day, I really could not see why I bother when my efforts make not a blind bit of difference to the big picture, really.

Has my quality of life improved as a result of lugging plastic and paper and bottles to the bins for over a decade and still doing the rounds with bottles?

Has it hell!  The back seat of my car is still a dump and has no room for passengers.  This is because although I now have paper, plastic and metal collected from my doorstep, I always have a constantly changing array of cardboard boxes, cloth and paper carriers in all shapes and sizes and a variety of what are now the most precious items in my kitchen - plastic bags.

I go to a large home equipment retailer and buy a trolley load, including  bulky stuff, and I am expected to carry it all in my arms, unless I pay for a plastic bag with the store's name emblazoned on it.

So whereas businesses have to pay quite a bit of money to advertise elsewhere, we the customers are paying to provide shops where we spend good money with free advertising.

The supermarkets are just as bad.  Why can't they provide free strong paper carrier bags?  People spend enough on food and other miscellaneous domestic items to warrant a free carrier bag.

Retailers should have the decency to provide adequate carriers for the goods to be transported away.

At least some provide a variety of cardboard boxes, but not all even provide handle-less plastic bags for frozen and chilled items.  Hence my supplies in the back seat of my car.

What kind of customer service is it when you are expected to carry, out of the shop, frozen food stuffs in your hands, unless you pay extra for the privilege of having spent your money there, by buying a plastic bag?

I refuse to supply shops in which I spend quite a bit of money with free advertising.  It might be a few cents to the customer, but it adds up quite nicely for the retailer.

Some shops are decent and have been providing paper carriers, for which they do not charge.  But too many retailers have benefitted from a bonanza - getting rid of their surplus of plastic bags, with their names on, by selling them to their customers.

Add to that the fact that we are now also spending more to buy extra plastic bags for recycling and our normal rubbish.

Besides, the recycling bags are not strong enough and one has to use a black plastic bag as lining to stop all your recyclables spilling out all over the pavement.  So, actually,  the supermarkets are selling more plastic than they used to give away.

The consumers have not stopped using plastic, they are buying more instead.  If only some more thought had gone into the whole plastic bag saga.

Shops should have been encouraged to change to paper carriers and oxy-biodegradable plastic bags, which disintegrate and do not release methane into the atmosphere.

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