I commend you for your commitment to making London a more
sustainable city for the 21st century. I was most impressed by the
“Boris’s Bikes” initiative, and am now writing to you about your
pledge to ban the plastic bag from London stores.
I am an ocean rower, and have been campaigning for bans on plastic
bags since encountering the North Pacific Garbage Patch while rowing
from San Francisco to Hawaii in 2008, on my way to becoming the
first woman to row solo across the Pacific. I am writing to you now
from my rowboat, roughly halfway across the Indian Ocean.
I am co-patron (with Zac Goldsmith, MP) of Greener Upon Thames, the
organization that has been campaigning for a plastic-bag-free
Olympics. I am sure I speak for them when I say that we would be
delighted to see a permanent and London-wide ban on plastic bags as
a welcome overshoot of that original goal, and would be more than
happy to support, advise and inform any such initiative.
I would urge you to impose a ban, rather than a charge, for the
1. As a former office worker myself, I would guess that a small
charge for a plastic bag to carry a GBP 5.00 sandwich back to their
desks might not be enough to persuade the majority to bring their
own bags. Some may even regard the charge as a convenient way to
make their charitable donations.
2. Plastic bags are inherently unsustainable and antisocial.
Imposing a charge rather than a ban sends a mixed message, as if the
penance will earn environmental absolution. An outright ban sends a
much clearer message.
3. Retailers will continue to produce plastic bags until the effect
of a charge can be evaluated. Once the raw materials have been made
into plastic, those bags cannot be un-made. Better to have a clear
cut-off date beyond which plastic bags must not be distributed by
I believe that there has been resistance from the retailers to a
ban. I hope it may prove persuasive to advocate the advantages of
selling tasteful, environmentally responsible bags made from
sustainable materials such as hemp, jute or organic cotton, bearing
the retailers’ logos. These will be longer-lasting and demonstrate
the retailer’s commitment to quality much better than cheap plastic
Again, thank you for the significant steps you have taken so far
towards a more sustainable London. As a dedicated environmental
campaigner, I am enormously encouraged to see real progress being
made, and hope you will keep up the great work. Please don’t
hesitate to ask if there is anything I can do to help further the cause.
21st August, 2011
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*Boris Johnson is Mayor of London.
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