The Balearic Government has decided to make war on plastic. The draft law on waste products is about to be passed and this will allow the autonomous government to apply a penalty for the commercial use of plastic bags, amongst other measures. European legislation does not permit the prohibition of the use of certain containers, such as beer cans and plastic bags so the Balearic Government has decided on penalties, not banning. They have learnt from the experience of Denmark where beer cans were forbidden in favour of re-usable glass bottles but this law was thrown out by European Courts.

I cannot argue against this decision. Glory be, you may say. In fact this law has been agreed by all the political parties. We seem to accumulate an amazing number of plastic bags when we go shopping and I first experienced an absence of this when visiting Germany in 1992. I was surprised not to find any plastic bags in supermarkets nor in small local shops. Instead very cheap, plain cloth bags were available at about 50 to 70 cents.

Some shops had more decorative cloth bags that cost the equivalent of 1 or 2 euros. People were all geared up to using the cardboard boxes for stacking their goods or loading the back of the car directly from the trollies. I wondered why the good old fashioned shopping baskets seemed to have gone out of fashion, although some excellent examples can be bought here in Majorca in soft, flexible, woven dwarf palm leaves or in sturdier wicker work. The answer is probably that we do such massive shops at one time in hypermarkets the good old shopping basket just isn't big enough.

It was in Germany that I first encountered the selection of rubbish for recycling and the home had several different small rubbish bins for this purpose. Fortunately this has now come to Majorca, although often the so–called Green Sites are often just an excuse for indiscriminate dumping.

Searching on internet websites for more information about plastic bags I found that Ireland has just recently passed a similar law. However, on forum pages, comments come through that the majority of people tend to use their plastic bags as bin liners and would only spend more money on commercially sold ones if they do not get bags from the supermarket. Sure this means that more biodegradable (hate that word) materials have to be created that disintegrate more quickly (rather like a Mission Impossible message?) and more naturally to cope with this problem. I was only reading a short while ago about a new invention which has a coiled device inside a drinks can that automatically cools it down when desired. My immediate impression was that it would probably be more difficult to dispose of.

The disposal of our long list of waste products, from plastic bags to old cars is already one grand headache. A friend who ran a wool carpet factory in England commented that a lot of his time, effort and expense was to do with the elimination of waste products from cleaning the lanolin from the raw wool from the sheep. Another item of interest was that all the old coins from a certain country will be destroyed and buried in Spain......... why not in the original country? An old axim learnt at school was “matter can be neither created nor destroyed” but I am wondering how we can correlate this statement with all the ever increasing mountains of rubbish and waste products!!!