5 Pence Penury

Jacob Whitehead’s The Satiric Verses continues this week with a look at the Armageddon 5p can cause.


We’ve been warned of the apocalypse twice this week. The first was when an American radio host explained in a series of podcasts (The eBible Fellowship, if anybody fancies a listen) how the world would end on 7 October. His reasoning was that God had started to judge us on 21st May 2011, and 7 October was exactly 1600 days later. I’m afraid I can’t explain the significance of 1600 days; why do you think it took him 8 hours of podcasts to explain? The second piece of impending doom was actually facilitated by the government (up pops the conspiracy theorist’s head). I am of course talking about the plastic bag tax.

Wars have been started over less… Source: Packaging News

Wars have been started over less… Source: Packaging News

The UK is a funny country. More tears have been cried over a 5p charge on plastic bags than have been over the deaths of around 100 people in Ankara. There have been more tales of horror involving polythene this week than in the whole of 50 Shades of Grey. I’d understand the panic if the charge was extortionate. But 5p per bag?! A five pence piece is one you consider whether to pick it up or not if you’ve dropped it in the street.

The general mind-set is hilarious. Not wanting to pay 5p per bag to essentially save the environment is the status quo. Yet the same people are upset when baby birds eat the plastic birds and are poisoned.

It’s quite amusing that some people consider this a breach of their rights, failing to realise that a plastic bag is just another thing which can be charged for, like any other good or service. The purpose of a plastic bag is to make it easier for someone to get their shopping home, right? Imagine if supermarkets paid for every other thing that facilitates the movement of groceries from shelf to fridge. There’d be Tesco-funded buses which delivered grannies to their door. Morrisons would probably have a dedicated team which unload your shopping for you. Even Lidl might pay for your petrol.

My favourite thing about this “crisis” is the attitude of those who try to beat the plastic bag law. A quick trawl through my favourite website, the Daily Mail Online, has merited a goldmine of content. People have been stealing bags and stuffing them into their inside coat pockets to avoid detection. Others have decided to pay £1 for a trolley, and then wheel that the whole way home. I applaud the latter’s ingenuity, but the first is by far the funniest. Middle-aged women suddenly are envisaging themselves as resistance fighters, battling against the oppressive government, deep undercover in the jungle of the Asda checkout. It’s like they’re members of the SAS (Special Asda Service).

I really hope this is also happening at Waitrose. In the quiet Buckinghamshire town of Aylesbury, middle-class Rita furtively scans her perimeter. A hand shoots out, plucking a polythene bag off the rack, before placing her goose-fat and piccalilli inside. She tucks it inside her mulberry handbag, before striding towards the exit. A security guard blocks her path, but she’d been trained for this scenario at the last meeting of the Women’s Institute. This charge, of course, was at the top of the agenda. Diving onto her front she commando crawls under him, before sprinting to the BMW 5 series owned by long-suffering husband Alan. She was free. Free to carry home her bags. Free to post on Facebook and Twitter about her success. #FightThePower #RageAgainstTheMachine.

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