In the interest of accuracy, for which London Free Press headlines have never been noted, only the City's Environment and Transportation Committee is being asked to declare "Plastic Bag Free Day," which Council would subsequently have to approve. The consciences of Committee and Council have never posed the slightest obstacle to making affectations of virtue toward objects beyond the boundaries of their competence. Londoners themselves are simply expected to applaud inconsequential gestures made on their behalf as though reflecting sanctimonies right back at our own reflections is what we pay politicians and bureaucrats for. Like mirrors held up to mirrors, no actual light escapes to the rest of the world.
"They're ugly, they block drains and cause flooding, and our wildlife animals are choking on them," said Controller Gina Barber who, together with Coun. Judy Bryant, is sponsoring the request to add "Plastic Bag Free Day" to the list of civic celebrations of off-the-shelf bombasts, right on the heels of the equally fatuous "Earth Hour" in March.
Even heroin syringes don't get that kind of negative publicity from politicians, but then their idle imaginations tend to overlook victims when they are present and encounter them when they are absent. If there are no victims of plastic bags they must be invented, and Barber does so with a flourish. For most of us, the simple practicality of plastic bags for re-use as garbage liners and cat and dog litter receptacles precludes aesthetic considerations — it suffices that we don't have to buy packaged plastic bags to put in the landfill instead. The per-weight or per-volume contribution of plastic bags to landfills must be a tiny matter to calculate, but no smaller one should suppose than counting the piles of plastic-choked wildlife corpses that litter the city. Meanwhile, stigmatizing plastic bags as the cause of blocked drains and flooding certainly makes them a far easier thing for a politician to cope with than having to do something about aging brickwork that's actually clogging the city's watermains.
But a declaration in celebration of feeble sentiment at City Hall is only part of the ongoing "casual discussions" that a few London Councillors have been having on whether we really need plastic bags at all or, to be more precise, whether the manufacture of political virtue can tolerate us having them. That these casual discussions are continually aired in public would be odd unless they are supposed to lead us to the resignation that we really shouldn't have any choice but not to need them some day.
Barber, who has been envious of other cities that have enacted bans, also makes the casual suggestion of a 15-cent per-bag "levy" that is patently meant to be considered as a prelude to a serious discussion instead. Now where have we heard that sort of idea before?