Plastic Bags and Old Boots

One of the best things that ever happened in Ireland was the introduction of the plastic bag ‘tax’ a few years ago.  I’m writing about this now as a similar tax has come into operation in England this week.

Here in Ireland, we’ve pretty much got rid of the blight of plastic bags being blown all over the countryside and finding themselves knotted around branches, stuck in stone walls, floating down rivers and being washed up all along our lovely coastline.

Plastic bags have a value now and having a value is something that is hugely important in all walks of life.

Lost and Lovely
Lost and Lovely

I’m not sure why but I can’t seem to see old boots that are washed up on the beach as eyesores like those flapping white plastic bags. Old boots have a style all of their own. They also pose questions about the feet they once cushioned and the journeys they enjoyed and/or endured.

Old boots, like this one that my son, Harry, and I came across at high tide last night, speak to me of resilience and the the notion of ‘being tough as old boots.’ That’s a toughness that puts value on determination, heart and character.

Isn’t that the kind of value that matters most?

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

28 thoughts on “Plastic Bags and Old Boots”

  1. An old boot has atleast a past history..a plastic bag is making history in all the destruction it causes to wild life, and a blight on the once pristeen areas. Atleast bottles/cans can be recycled and there’s a cash value that goes with it. I use them for garbage but when it’s picked up , it becomes a problem for whom ever has to handle it. I do know some plastic breaks down as I’ve made wreaths from the bags and after awhile they break down, but it’s the damage that they cause to birds, and wildlife that has to be addressed. It’s been years since we’ve had a garbage bin (that was gross the aroma and other things). Atleast an old boot can have flowers planted in it and eventually breaks down to return itself to the earth, a slow process though. A walk on the beach does turn up some unusual oddities (some too gross to mention).

  2. Rather than simply copy Scottish or Irish legislation, there are a variety of ‘get out clauses’ for retailers in England. I am not sure which irritates more – the time and energy that must have been wasted coming up with our version or the wrong conclusions they came to. Rant over Jean 😉 Now, where is my missing boot?

  3. Yes Jean I agree with you on both points! I hate the eyesores that plastic bags make and I hope that now they, as to say have a price on their head’s they will be respected and less discarded!
    As to boots yes I often wander what their history was? Why only one is here where is it’s partner! What happened to the owner??
    “Tough as old boots ” a saying I have heard all my life, directed at others and at me at times. Right now I need my second oldest sister to be as tough as old boots. We had to rush away at the weekend because the hospital summoned the whole family. Telling us her condition was grave so we all descended to the west country asap!. She does not look at well, oxygen masks, nose tubes and all sorts of machines, one machine is basically a respirator. The specialist in charge of our sister was very honest with us and said that things are in the lap of the gods.
    The specialist spoke to us again yesterday and said she has a drug resistant bug in her chest bone and inflamed lungs. They really do not know exactly what’s what but are trying a small dose of steroids in hopes they will help. If the steroids don’t work there is no more that they can do. Today one of my sisters who has been able to stay down with M, said that she is not doing so well and is having difficulty with the liquid food they are giving her and that the medical team are looking for alternatives. All we can do is pray.
    Come on M be as tough as old boots…………… PLEASE!

  4. Couldn’t agree more – can’t believe the UK has taken so long about it. Mind I did hear some great stories about the time Ireland brought it in – loaves of bread shoved up jackets, fruit rolling down the street etc.
    I worry about old boots though. What happened to the other one? What happened to the wearer? That one doesn’t even look old 😦

    1. Roy, there’s still a touch of ‘lazy man’s load’ here if/when we forget our bags and baskets. But it has certainly put manners on us.
      As for the boot, it had me wondering too. The missing lace had me doubly wondering.

  5. Here in the US, there is not as much being done to really encourage re-cycling. There is so much waste here in “the land of plenty”. It takes a huge mind shift in culture of plenty to one of conservation.
    The boot reminds me of adventures. What adventures it must have experienced to bring it here.

    1. Val, yes boots make me think of adventures too, as well as all sorts of other things like great art.
      It is so ironic that a land of plenty could care so little about the environment.

  6. I find the ‘plastic bag’ kerfuffle over here quite amusing. I remember it being introduced in Ireland and thought it was a good thing then. I don’t really recall there being much protest about it. People over here seem to think it’s a way for supermarkets to extort more money out of them, rather than seeing it as a positive for the environment. Or, that they should give the bags away because it’s free advertising. I don’t think they realise that the money is going to good causes. That said, I’m not sure it’s compulsory for the shops to donate the money. Was it compulsory in Ireland? I always presumed it was.

    1. Dave, I seem to remember early unease about the plastic bags here but it soon became acceped, especially when people found new baskets etc.
      I never heard much about what was to become of the money. I’m sure it cost a fortune to disentangle all the bags caught up on trees, telegraph poles and the like.

  7. On plastic — We just have a few little encouragements: Whole Foods credits 10 cents if we bring a bag, Trader Joe’s puts us in a drawing, and that’s it in my neighborhood. Lots of us have canvas bags of our own that we bring, but even then we forget sometimes. We need a ‘boot’ like your plastic tax.

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