Plastic bags have been a contentious issue in Ireland for the last ten years. For too long the people of Ireland were viewed as having abused plastic bags to no end. Back in the 90s, were one to buy an apple, the generous staff member on the checkout would throw three or four plastic bags your way. Environmentalists complained that our countryside was littered with plastic bags. They claimed our national flag should be replaced with a plastic bag. The Government took action in 2003 by placing a tax on plastic bags. The once generous checkout assistant was now forced to charge €0.15 per plastic bag. The result was a drastic increase in the re-use of carrier bags and eventual disappearance of plastic bags from hedgerows throughout the Irish countryside. Some money was even added to the public coffers. “Hoorah,” everyone cheered. The plastic bag tax was eventually increased to €0.22 with little quibbling.
Additional controversy was added to the subject of plastic bags this week, when the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) announced it was to commence charging €1.00 for plastic bags. In 2006, EU Regulations restricted air travellers to taking on board toiletries, liquids and gels that did not exceed 100ml in volume. Containers not exceeding 100ml were placed in a clear plastic bag and carried through security. Since the introduction of this regulation, the DAA claims to have provided seven million plastic bags to travellers flying from Dublin free of charge at a cost of €70,000 per annum. It now wants to dispense plastic bags through vending machines at a cost of €1.00 for two bags. If one were to make a calculation, the cost of the plastic bags to the DAA until now was around €0.03 per bag. It now wishes to charge €0.50 per bag. This equates to €0.47 profit on the sale of each bag. Is this not exorbitant?
I can foresee a sort of black market for plastic bags coming about in our country. Bags will become a sort of commodity. The Government and the DAA will set up patrols of the coast to prevent smuggling of bags into the State. Our international reputation will be viewed not only as a nation of alcoholics, but also as a nation who are obsessed with plastic bags. Plastic bags will become the new status symbol. The use of plastic bags as hoods, which until now was only done by old ladies, will become de rigueur among the masses of Ireland. Slits for arms and a heads will be made in plastic bags to allow them to be used as ponchos. Yes, that’s right; the DAA and Irish Government will be responsible for the return of the poncho. They will have an awful lot to answer for. To quote a spokesperson who issued Ryanair’s opinion on the matter, “they certainly have made a bags of it”.