Alderney agrees ban on single-use plastic bags
LEGISLATION will be drawn up to ban single-use plastic bags in Alderney after States members backed the proposal – although they did so with reservations.
The island’s 10 politicians voted 9-1 in favour of starting a projet de loi to ban the sale and distribution of the bags by the island’s retailers. It will come into force by January 2021.
The vote followed more than a year of the Alderney Wildlife Trust and the States working with businesses on initiatives to reduce plastic consumption and Alderney signing up to the international Blue Islands Charter pledging to move towards a ban on single-use plastics.
Alderney retailers expressed a preference for a legal instrument to halt the supply of lightweight plastic carriers over the voluntary efforts initially agreed on. A ban would level the playing field, they argued.
This month’s people’s meeting, however, generated a wave of public scepticism, with residents seeking to clarify the sorts of bag that would be outlawed and the purpose of focusing efforts on banning bags rather than other forms of single-use plastic.
One resident branded the motion as ‘posturing’ to distract attention from a lack of progress on more substantial problems. Several made the point that on Alderney, plastic bags were rarely used on a single occasion.
States members echoed those doubts, with several voicing an inclination to defer a vote until the wording had been perfected.
Policy and Finance chairman James Dent proposed the ban, saying it was a ‘tiny but nonetheless important move towards something of huge importance for the world’.
Alderney, he said, ‘had been proud’ to be at the forefront of the green agenda.
‘I would like the world to see where Alderney stands,’ he declared.
He said there would be definitions within the wording of the law to prevent the likes of bin liners, and other plastic items that had purposes other than transporting goods from shops to homes, being inadvertently caught in legal loopholes.
Kevin Gentle, who convened the people’s meeting, confessed to ‘nagging doubts’ over the ban.
He wondered whether more accurately ‘single use’ items such as wet wipes or cotton buds would be a better starting point for banning legislation, when the bags issued by retailers often had several useful functions on Alderney.
He drew attention to research indicating that lightweight plastic bags had a lower carbon footprint in manufacture than cotton bags or sturdy paper bags, while thicker bags for life could ultimately introduce more plastic into the environment.
The issue was not as straightforward as it seemed, he said.
Louis Jean said: ‘I see very few people buying carrier bags since a charge was brought in for them. People bring their own bags and if they forget to do that they pick up a carton and pop their shopping in that. It’s using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
‘A debate on transport would be more useful than getting rid of something that is being got rid of anyway.’
States of Alderney President William Tate, however, was having none of it, cutting him short and rebuking him sternly for the theatrics.
Only Mr Jean voted against the proposal.