back to article 300 million pelicans? Pah. What 6 billion plastic bags really weigh

The splash story on one Sunday newspaper breezily informed us Brits used six billion fewer plastic bags this year than last, and that these weighed the same as “three million pelicans” – a grave naughtiness committed before El Reg's Standards Soviet. Last Saturday's edition of the Daily Mail featured the screaming splash …

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    1. Joseba4242

      Re: "instead of handing it to the ever-greedy taxman"

      Considering that a bin liner sells for about 4.5p and is of worse quality that a single-use supermarket plastic bag, let alone the Sainsburys long-life ones, it's not difficult to see that "reasonable costs" would be justified as more than 5p.

      Whether they'll request money back from the good causes remains to be seen.

  2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    People should really stop driving to the ocean and tossing them in

    We recycle our old shopping bags. We do not drive to the ocean and toss them in.

    I wish that the ecomentals weren't so daft. I support their basic goals, but their approach is too often completely stupid. They need to hire a manager or something.

    Hint: Somebody should figure out how the plastic is getting into the ocean.

    1. Baldy50

      Re: People should really stop driving to the ocean and tossing them in

      I too recycle any plastic bags I get but also the plastic carrier for beer tins gets ripped apart and recycled too, if you’ve ever seen a pic of a turtle stuck in one and crushing pet food cans and alike which most people don't do.

      Lived abroad for a while and I have plenty of scars rescuing feral cats heads out of tins, so It's not just plastic bags that are a problem to wildlife.

      CFL's and batteries still get thrown into the trash and with the heavy metal content of these items a real danger to the environment.

    2. The Axe

      Re: People should really stop driving to the ocean and tossing them in

      @JeffyPoooh "Hint: Somebody should figure out how the plastic is getting into the ocean."

      The plastic isn't getting into the ocean. Enviromentalists are extrapolating from a couple of locations which happen to contain a tiny bit of tiny pieces of plastic (specially chosen to help their case) and making a case that all the world's oceans are filled with plastic to the same level.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Enviromentalists are extrapolating

        Right. Because the the Pacific trash vortex is just a tiny collection of a few bits of plastic debris. Nothing to worry about. Move along.

        1. The Axe

          Re: Enviromentalists are extrapolating

          @Pascal Monett - I can do links too*.

          Are we really “choking the ocean with plastic”? Tracing the creation of an eco-myth - https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/12/24/are-we-really-choking-the-ocean-with-plastic-tracing-the-creation-of-an-eco-myth/

          An Ocean of Plastic - https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/12/17/an-ocean-of-plastic/

          Garbage: Another environmental claim proven to be hyped - https://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/06/garbage-another-environmental-claim-proven-to-be-hyped/

          * Well not clicky ones, but you know how to copy & paste.

          1. TheOtherHobbes

            Re: Enviromentalists are extrapolating

            And here's everything you need to know about the credibility of "wattsupwiththat"

            Sourcewatch on Anthony Watts

            If you're going to try to link to sources, at least make some effort to find sources that aren't obvious crap.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. The Axe

              Re: Enviromentalists are extrapolating

              @TheOtherHobbes

              Yeah, like your link. It's so full of obvious crap.

    3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: People should really stop driving to the ocean and tossing them in

      I always used to use the 'single use' carrier bags as bin liners - that way my refuse would degrade nice and quickly in landfill.

      Unfortunately I now have to buy bin liners, which are not biodegradable to the same degree and are likely to cause more problems than the carrier bags used to.

      I wonder how many more bin liners have been sold than before the bag tax?

      1. Toltec

        Re: People should really stop driving to the ocean and tossing them in

        "I wonder how many more bin liners have been sold than before the bag tax?"

        Wales introduced this some time ago, here is a report on what happened to bag sales-

        http://www.wrap.org.uk/node/18514

      2. Peter Fairbrother 1

        Re: People should really stop driving to the ocean and tossing them in

        Actually, using carrier bags slows down the rate at which refuse degrades.

        Which is a good thing, as it slows down the rate of CO2 production from landfill. So much so that the charge, and the subsequent decrease in carrier bag use, has actually increased overall CO2 production.

        You do not want biodegradable carrier bags in landfill (unless you are the landowner and want to repurpose the land quickly), you want bags which will "last a thousand years" or more. Fortunately, most carrier bags are not biodegradable in landfill conditions.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: People should really stop driving to the ocean and tossing them in

      Several decades ago, I worked on two different government ships for a summer job. It was standard operating procedure to dump the daily trash over board each evening. "Put a slice in the bag", they said. I wonder how much of that is still floating around today?

      Based on my experience and observations, plastic in the oceans is mostly from several primary sources. I'm not sure what order they're in.

      1) Lost or discarded fishing gear

      2) Garbage tossed overboard by ships at sea

      3) Littering in those places where it's endemic (the horrific examples)

      4) Washed out to sea by disasters like the Japanese tsunami

      Shopping bags from modern (mostly tidy) nations is virtually a non-issue.

      So the attention paid to shopping bags is perfectly insane.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: People should really stop driving to the ocean and tossing them in

        Yes, it used to be common to toss trash overboard, but since 1988 the rules have gradually been tightened.

    5. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: People should really stop driving to the ocean and tossing them in

      I, like I believe most, recycle bags because I need them for something such as cleaning out the kitty litter, liner, etc. and I already have several.

  3. Peter Prof Fox

    Remind me...

    Is the standard Moron the intelligence of a Daily mail reader or is it an editor?

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Remind me...

      is there a difference?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Frederic Bloggs

        Re: Remind me...

        Nominative determinism is alive and well. But the Fail's editor is a different chap to the ex-editor of the Sun/Mirror you are thinking of (well, thinking of his name anyway). Spookily, he appears now to be working at the Fail as well.

  4. graeme leggett

    long life bags

    In my experience long life bags just fill up the cupboard under the stairs or a kitchen drawer. Seriously we've got a least a dozen, plus hessian shopping bags, Sports Direct bags etc.

    But unlike the cheapo bags, you can't (won't) use them for filling with rubbish and then binning the lot.

    On the plus side, the reddish disposable bags the supermarket shrouds your meat products in are useful because they don't have holes. Much more effective as emergency sick bags for children on long car journeys.

    1. Sir Barry

      Re: long life bags

      "emergency sick bags for children on long car journeys."

      Eew

      You let your kids play with bags of vomit in the car?!

      1. VinceH

        Re: long life bags

        What else are they going to do on long journeys?

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: long life bags

      "In my experience long life bags just fill up the cupboard under the stairs or a kitchen drawer. Seriously we've got a least a dozen, plus hessian shopping bags, Sports Direct bags etc."

      So why don;t you just keep them in the car where they will be handily available for the next big "shop" instead of building a collection in the cupboard?

      On a related note, I see that quite a lot of the "bag for life" ones in supermarkets are just a heavy(ish) gauge plastic bag and some really don't look like they have much of an extended life expectancy (yeah, yeah, the shop will replace it if you can be bothered to ask). But just how long are they lasting in normal usage compared with the number of single use bags that could have been made from that same amount of plastic?

      Here at Brown Mansions, we have an ancient Aldi bag that is huge, so big that it's easily possible to fill it to such a weight a single person can barely carry it, a large Iceland insulated bag, an fairly large maroon coloured one old enough that I don't remember which shop we got it at and a couple of carrier bag sized hessian ones. Most are older than the carrier bag tax because to us, a couple of decent sized bags make a lot more sense and are more manageable than half a dozen cheap plastic carriers.

    3. Nixinkome

      Re: long life bags

      to: graeme leggett,

      Emergency sick bags from ex meat product containing bags [without holes]? On long journeys the smell of the blood, guts, fat and whate'er else gets into our meat products would be as likely to cause the kids to vomit. Pukéballs. [Disclaimer - I'm not vegetarian either!]

      I suppose that rear seat video screen films or individual 'phones keep kids occupied nowadays on such journeys. They still have to make #s1 and 2 stops so pooper scooper bags will still be necessary. In my day we were distracted by the pets accompanying us [without pooper scooper bags] and they were sensible, putting their heads outside of the window before thinking of heaving.

      The incessant chanting in the back seat of "cabbage on the grass" must have terribly annoyed the concerned driver and the fields went on for longer than we competing kids! As a child I remember my parents waiting for us to subside before they started talking but kids' attention spans demanded that we join in if we weren't snoozing.

      Do children get bored with catching electronic monsters?

      P.S. We only had one cat that could 'travel'.

  5. The Original Steve

    Niche scenario - but annoying regardless

    I applaud the objective - I recycle like a good citizen, use energy efficient bulbs and white goods etc.

    But until the NHS decide that I can have a new knee, I'm restricted to carrying goods from the supermarket with one hand. The other is keeping me from toppling over via a sturdy solid wooden cane.

    Which means that if like many people I know I happen to forget to bring a bag and there's more than one or two items I have to buy a bag.. I can't carry more than a couple of things as I can only use one sodding hand.

    So financially I'm at a disadvantage via my disability. True, this is very much a first world problem, and I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where the 5p's don't tot-up enough to have a real impact. But it's bloody annoying when you just pop into the shops for a loaf of bread and some milk only to have to pay 5p + just because I have a bloody walking stick! Sure I should remember, but lots of people don't, and if they are just grabbing a couple of things they have the option of not buying a bag. People using disability aids don't have that choice and now must pay a surcharge.

    Am I the only person who can't understand why we can't just have truly disposable bags free of charge? E.g. recycled paper bags. In this day and age it can't be beyond our technology or economics to provide a bag that won't murder a million turtles if it ends up in landfill by mistake?

    1. Chris Hunt

      Re: Niche scenario - but annoying regardless

      There's a marvellous new invention I've heard of called a "pocket." Maybe you could get into the habit of keeping a bag in one?

      Paper bags - surprisingly - have a worse environmental impact than plastic: they take more energy, and cause more pollution, to make; and they don't actually biodegrade much faster than plastic. Source: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/paper-plastic1.htm

      That's why it's best to have plastic bags which you re-use.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Niche scenario - but annoying regardless

        Strange that the paper that includes paper store bags that I put into the trench for my runner beans degrades very nicely thank you very much. Well, by the time I dig the ground over in the Autumn, there is no paper left to see.

        Perhaps you were thinking of those fashion stores that use paper bags covered in some form of plastic?

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Niche scenario - but annoying regardless

          "Strange that the paper that includes paper store bags that I put into the trench for my runner beans degrades very nicely thank you very much"

          Put a couple of newspapers under 2-3 feet of soil and dig them up 6 months later, then rebury them and dig them up 5 years later. They won't have degraded much, if at all

          That's the kind of conditions in landfill. Even food waste doesn't break down much (the breakdown tends to be anaerobic, which is why landfill emits so much methane)

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Niche scenario - but annoying regardless

        Adding to the comment about paper bags:

        They are quite expensive to recycle (in terms of energy use) and as recycling shortens the fibres which make it up (chopping...), paper can only be recycled a few times.

        In most cases (paper and plastic) it's less expensive and uses fewer raw materials/energy to simply burn the bags (paper or plastic) for fuel and make new ones. In the specific case of plastic bags the energy used to recycle the things uses enough oil to make several new ones. It's even worse for plastic bottles as they need washing and the energy requirements for any with a paper label are insane (you can't allow paper fibres into the plastic recycling process. It results in films with holes in them (bad bags) or plastic extrusions/molds with major weaknesses)

        From the retailer point of view, plastic bags are 1/10 the price of paper ones, even if you use "bags for life"

        The big mistake (of course) is attempting to recycle glass bottles into glass bottles or plastic bags/bottles into more of the same. Turning the glass into insulation wool is an example of intelligent recycling - you don't have to worry about the myriad mixed grades/colours that would otherwise need separating. The same thing can be done for plastics but the energy costs mentioned above come into play. Metals are much easier to recycle and the only reason they "need" to be cleaned is to prevent attracting vermin whilst they're waiting to be melted down.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. sandman

      Re: Niche scenario - but annoying regardless

      Had a similar problem with a trashed knee. I used a rucksack for the heavy stuff (bottles mostly ;-) and a "bag for life" for stuff that didn't want squashing. Worked fine with a stick. I still use the same system now, although without the stick.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Niche scenario - but annoying regardless

      @The Original Steve. 'er indoors has a nylon/cloth fold-up bag that folds to about the size of a wallet but thinner (or maybe just an empty wallet!). She keeps it in her handbag, but it should fit easily in a pocket, especially a coat or jacket pocket on a more or less permanent basis. It probably holds as much as a standard carrier bag.

    5. Long John Brass Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Niche scenario - but annoying regardless

      Am I the only person who can't understand why we can't just have truly disposable bags free of charge? E.g. recycled paper bags. In this day and age it can't be beyond our technology or economics to provide a bag that won't murder a million turtles if it ends up in landfill by mistake?

      When I were a lad I can clearly remember my teachers at school haranguing us to remind our parents to always ask for the new plastic bags instead of the old paper ones. The idea being that plastic is recyclable and doesn't murder trees

      Funny how the world turns eh :)

  6. Alfie Noakes
    FAIL

    The Daily Mail...

    ...would that be the newspaper the puts all its weekend supplements, leaflets etc. in a, er, single use plastic bag?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The Daily Mail...

      ...and is often bought at the news stand in supermarkets where they usually have a special bin where all the adverts and flyers can be dumped directly, instead of filling up the recycle bin at home.

  7. AS1

    Would be interested to know if there had been a rise in the sales of pedal-bin liners. In the pre-5p bag days, that's how I used most of the free carrier bags after they'd started to fail. Now I buy bin-bags as that works out marginally cheaper. If many others are following this behaviour pattern then the much touted "6-billion less bags" is only a shift to a different, unreported, plastic bag.

  8. Squeensnex

    Ocean plastic

    The ocean garbage patches seem quite large to me, and the plastic may ultimately enter the food chain.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_garbage_patch

    But getting the family to stop using plastic bottles of water and drinking straws has been an uphill battle.

  9. joshimitsu

    I have to recheck the maths

    At about 5 grams per bag, that's about 30 million kilos.

    Making the weight of one pelican about a tenth of a kilo. Would that be a newly hatched pelican then?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: I have to recheck the maths

      I actually surprised they weigh that much. At 5.5 grams that would be less than 100 to a pound, and I would have guessed you'd need at least 500 to weigh that much. Maybe the ones you use are sturdier than the ones we have here?

    2. Steven Jones

      Re: I have to recheck the maths

      Whilst the headline says 300 million pelicans, the text in the story says 3 million, a much more reasonable 10Kg per bird. So I've no idea why The Register has a difference of a factor of 100 between the story and the headline.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I have to recheck the maths

        "So I've no idea why The Register has a difference of a factor of 100 between the story and the headline."

        It's the type of clickbait they lay out to attract lemmings. Oh no!

  10. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    How will "Brexit" affect the Reg Standards Soviet?

    "The base unit of volume shall be the EU standard (5cm radius) grapefruit, defined as 1gf..."

    Will this change, now?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: How will "Brexit" affect the Reg Standards Soviet?

      I don't see why. Bulgarian airbags are an SR unit too.

  11. G R Goslin

    Get real, people

    This rather reminds me of a unit in the measurement of radioactivity. The Bequerel, usually referred to as The Buggerall, since it's only significant in mega quantities. This is the case in this instance. It really should be considered in weight, per capita, per year. When you consider that ALL the stuff you take away from the supermarket, eventually ends up as waste, which includes apples, oranges, tins of beer, etc., the odd few grammes of plastic is insignificant. Particularly if you set it against all the other plastic, in cartons, bottles wrappings and containers that you carry out in these bags. I used to take the throw away bags back for a second go, as well as using them as kitchen bin liners. Which latter use has not ceased. It's simply gone to another plastic source.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Get real, people

      "Particularly if you set it against all the other plastic, in cartons, bottles wrappings and containers that you carry out in these bags."

      Yes, that gets trotted out every year or two, usually by a Govt. Minister. All the supermarkets make agreeable noises and then make "party manifesto" promises to the politicians that they will "do something". Since we don;t actually seem to see any reduction in the "waste packaging" on the goods, I can only assume the "something" they do is to take the minister out for a slap up, all expenses paid meal and then quietly forget about it over drinks. Sorry, what were we talking about? No idea sir, bloody good brandy this, what?

  12. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    Regular footballs

    Regular footballs? How regular? Every hour?

  13. Official_Frost
    FAIL

    Standards

    Why is the volume of the bag not in Gf? seems inconsistent.

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