Monday, 26 March 2012

The Express, the EU and plastic bags - part 3

On 20 May 2011, the Express claimed:

The EU hadn't actually said 'ban shopping bags' or even 'ban' plastic bags.

In fact, the EU had simply launched a public consultation on what action, if any, should be taken on plastic bags.

Undeterred, the Express said this on 19 January 2012:

The EU hadn't actually said it wanted 'all plastic bags' to be made 'illegal'.

In fact, it had been reported that the results of the public consultation were that 70% of the 15,500 responses favoured a ban. But there was no evidence in the story that the EU was to adopt this stance.

Undeterred, today's Express said:

'Now EU bans plastic bags'. 'Now'! So 'now' it is actually happening?

Well, the subhead seems to contradict the main headline as it says: 'Shoppers will be forced to pay new Brussels tax'.

So there will be a 'new tax' for something that's going to be banned?

The actual article, by Martyn Brown, does not clear up this confusion:

Brussels commissars want to outlaw shops from stocking them or impose a wallet-busting tax on shoppers to dramatically reduce their use.

The use of 'commissars' is not, of course, accidental.

So there might be a 'ban' or shoppers may have to pay for them (something some shops do already). Either way, the Express knows the charge will be 'wallet-busting'. It just doesn't say what the charge will be.

The paper says:

One of the key proposals will be a recommendation for mandatory charging for plastic shopping bags.

'Mandatory charges'? Won't one of the 'key proposals' be a 'ban'?

The paper says that the Commission's report will be published next month. Two sentences later, it says:

The proposals were met with fury last night by retailers and politicians and added to the growing support for our crusade to get Britain out of the EU.

Fury always erupts 'last night' for the Express. But how can 'fury' erupt at a set of proposals that haven't been published when it's not clear - especially from the Express' article - what those the proposals are.

Indeed, a week before the Express' article, the BBC website published an article weighing up different options for plastic bags. It said:

The European Commission is to publish proposals in the spring designed to reduce the number of plastic bags used in Europe each year.

Moreover, Speigel reported on 21 March that an internal Commission report has ruled out a complete ban:

At least one of those options -- the complete ban -- has already been taken off the table. According to the Commission study, a ban would have positive environmental impacts, but it would also "raise difficult legal questions." The report calls a complete ban: "a blunt instrument that gives little flexibility to producers, retailers, or consumers." The report also says that a ban would conflict with international trade law and EU internal market rules.

So we wait to see what the Commission actually says when its report is published. Maybe it will propose banning plastic bags, although the Spiegal report suggests that is unlikely. But at this stage it simply isn't clear.

Importantly, nothing in the Express' article justifies the claim in that front page headline.

(Hat-tip to Tim Fenton, for noting the constant eruptions of fury at the Express)


  1. Of course, bags are already 5p in Wales!

  2. Amazingly the Mail are in favour of people having to pay for bags, judging by the "Ban The Bags" article on page 2 today.

    Rumour has it according to a New Yorker article about the Mail, Paul Dacre was driving in the countryside one day and saw a plastic bag stuck to a tree. Ever since then his editorial policy has been against the bags.

    I bet Mail readers will ignore the Mail's hatred of plastic bags and just go on hating the EU, mind.

  3. In Germany, where supermarkets charge for plastic bags as a matter of course, you can, for a slightly larger investment, buy cloth bags. They're reusable, machine washable, and the handles don't stretch when you try to carry them.

    1. We have those here too Rewboss, but alongside plastic bags for free or a few pence depending on the shop

  4. I would have thought that a tax or ban on plastic bags would be a good thing. The Express comes off as the villain here if they are against a clamp-down on plastic bag usage.

  5. the 'Fury erupted last night' link is very inciteful - for anyone doubting the idiocy of tabloids.

  6. Isn't it kind of futile to use logical arguments (like, it's good for the environment) in relation to the Daily Express? Clearly, they are not interested...

  7. I have emigrated to New Zealand, and something that embarrasses me is that the "English" paper that gets imported is "The Express" ffs. I could understand importing the Independent, Grauniad or Telegraph, possibly even the Times. But even the Star and the Sun would be less embarrassing than seeing the paranoid headlines of the Express in the supermarket, even though I've escaped to the opposite side of the world!

  8. It's probably been said before, but is there any way we can campaign for the EU to ban the Express? It continues to masquerade as a newspaper and that must be in contravention of some rule about it needing to report at least *some* news.


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