Save environment, say no to plastic bags
Image: © Marco Verch Professional

Can you embarrass people into being environmentalists?

A shop in Canada has printed ‘shameful’ slogans on its plastic bags to stop people using them.

How would you feel walking around your hometown carrying a bag emblazoned with the words ‘Wart Ointment’ or ‘Weird Adult Video Emporium’? A Vancouver grocery shop is hoping you’d feel awkward enough that you’d do quite a lot to avoid it, including not asking for a bag or bringing your own from home. Like the 5p plastic-bag charge that was introduced in the UK in 2015, the point is to tackle the problem of plastic pollution.

Plastic is an undeniably useful substance. But it’s not very environmentally friendly, either when it’s made or when it’s thrown away. Making plastic means making greenhouse gases (which cause climate change). These gases are also produced when plastic degrades. Plastic rubbish also harms wildlife and looks, well, rubbish. Plastic bags are a big part of the problem: we use up to one trillion of them a year, and only 1 in 200 are ever recycled.

The 5p-charge achieved its aims of reducing plastic bag use. The number of bags given out by Britain’s biggest retailers has fallen from an average of 140 per Brit per year to just 19. Could embarrassing slogans send it down still further? Possibly - but it could also face a backlash from people concerned it stigmatises sex and medical conditions, or that it’s inappropiate to give such bags to children, or that it’s just not cool for businesses to try and make people feel bad about themselves. Plus, the UK government already has a different solution - it’s mulling upping the charge to 10p a bag.

Read our explainer on: the environment

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