When the small Devon town of Modbury became the first in Europe to reject plastic bags in its shops six months ago cynics said traders and the public would soon tire of their experiment and go back to oil-based polyethylene normality.What is most encouraging about this movement is how it started - one woman who got annoyed enough to start something - and how quickly the idea got picked up.
Anything but. Not only has the self-imposed ban by the 40-odd shopkeepers held firm with the public accepting alternatives, but now 50 other cities, towns and villages are following Modbury and are in the process of ditching the eponymous symbol of the throwaway society.
They range from London, where the 33 boroughs last week proposed a city-wide ban on all throwaway bags starting in 2009, to the islands of Mull, Arran and Guernsey, which are racing to become the first plastic bag-free island in the world.
We do not need plastic bags. All we need to do is remember to take a reusable bag or two when we go shopping. Or always have a "perhaps bag" in our pockets. Which is what we all used to do not so long ago. When I first worked at Safeway (1965-6), we had free brown paper sacks we gave away - but no-one wanted them since they did not have handles. After a while they brought in British style "carrier-bags (also paper but stronger and with string handles)for which there was a charge , 6d I think. Because you had to buy them they were not popular either.
Some high end retailers have recognized the value of reusable bags and some have become icons. There is a decided cachet about carrying a Harrods bag. Even if it only contains your packed lunch.