Plastic Packets – SA vs USA

A couple of years ago, South Africa introduced legislation to enforce shops to charge for plastic packets, and to only use packets of a certain quality that could be reused. This was all in an attempt to reduce pollution and wastage.

At the time, I thought it was a waste of time, and would not make any difference. However, I have realised over the last two weeks what a difference it has made, and how aware I have become of plastic bag usage.

If you buy anything in a shop in USA, it is put into a plastic packet. This is even if it is something that you are obviously going to use in the next few minutes (such as a sandwich).

Sometimes you are presented with a very large, very high quality packet for something very small. The packet can take up more space than the item purchased!

Today, I saw a shop assistant in New York offer somebody a ‘fresh packet’ after the customer had returned an item for a swop. The old packet was fine – it had only been used once, and even had the correct branding! But no, it was thrown out and replaced.

This is such a waste and needless drain on the environment. So, even though I was sceptical in the beginning, I really do think that our new plastic packet legislation was the right thing to do, and it has made a difference in my way of thinking!

I think that it is also an indication of the American way of thinking. It is a very consumerist and disposable society. For example in many cheaper restaurants (and I use the term broadly), you generally eat off a plastic plate, with a plastic knife and fork. Your juice is either in a paper or plastic cup. This is simply because it is cheaper to throw away the utensils after the meal than to wash and reuse them. This is in complete disregard to the environment.

I know I am generalising here, but this is my general impression.

One Response to Plastic Packets – SA vs USA

  • I completely agree with you, when shops first started charging for platic bags I though it was a stupid idea. But if you look around you now, there are fewer bags lying around littering our streets. So it does seem to have helped quite a bit.

    Now to start charging a deposit for cans and bottles so people take them back to the shop for the refund. That would be superb

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