How is the plastic bag ban working out for you? In my house it has brought a better class of plastic bag.
I can see several hanging on the back of a chair or lying about waiting for another use. They are all quite pretty in their pastel colours and some have an attractive texture like hemp but they're plastic.
The carbon footprint of their manufacture must be many times that of the bags now banned and they are too nice to re-use as bin liners. There's now a roll of rip-off plastic bags for the bin. They're made for the purpose and we pay for them.
We usually have to buy a bag when we shop, or at least I do. I never remember the damn ban until I'm at the checkout. There is a bundle of bags in a cupboard now that cost 15c apiece.
The plastic bag ban might turn out to be the Government's most memorable achievement. It is unlikely to be reversed. Supermarkets must be saving money on the bags they used to give away and making money from those they can now sell. The cost is not enough for voters to care. Now that sales of the 15c bags are also banned, my supermarket is offering a paper bag with handles at 20c or, for a dollar, one that they will replace for free when it wears out.
If this was being done by a National government we would be hearing that it's a cruel additional cost on households which can least afford it, but obviously it is not. Life has been made just a little more costly and less convenient for all of us.
Does that matter? Not if there is a good reason for it. What annoys me about the plastic bag ban is that the justification we have been given – sea pollution – appears to me to have been exaggerated. Greenpeace had to go a long way to a mid-ocean gyre, to film the swirl of plastic that every TV news producer uses to illustrate stories on this.
When the bag ban was before a parliamentary committee a National MP innocently asked environmental officials how much plastic was in the ocean around New Zealand. None of them had a clue.
Some work has since been done. A survey of 20 Auckland beaches has found plastic microparticles, broken down by sun and salt water, in all of them.
Paradise lost: Restaurant dumps sneaky handle-free plastic bag tactic
These particles can be ingested by fish we eat and another research project has just begun in Canterbury to try to determine whether these can do us much harm.
We've been eating fish for a long time and plastic litter is not new. In fact, in developed countries littering is not the problem it used to be.
In the television series Mad Men set in the 1960s there was a memorable scene of the hero's young family having a picnic in a park. When they get up to go back to their car his wife whisks the blanket from under the food wrappers, folds it and walks after them, leaving all the picnic debris on the grass.
Those of us who were children at that time can attest to the accuracy of that scene. People thought nothing of throwing rubbish out of a car window or discarding it wherever they happened to be.
Some still do but they are the exceptions to the rule. I don't remember when the anti-littering campaign started but it has been one of the most successful exercises of social improvement I have seen.
It was so successful that several decades later city councils were able to reduce the number of rubbish bins in public places, confident people would take their rubbish home.
It is true that over those same decades, we have greatly increased the amount of rubbish we produce, most of it plastic. The bulk of it is packaging and much of the packaging is purely for marketing. But we discard it in the right place as a rule.
Now that we've accepted the loss of very useful "single use" supermarket bags, campaigners have their sights on real single-use plastic — product packaging — and ultimately our entire "throwaway society".
When I hear this, it brings to mind the Soviet Union I saw in 1978. There were not many plastic bags there and no packaging.
Soviet citizens never left home without a string bag in their pocket because their sparsely stocked shops would quickly sell out. They carried raw hunks of meat in those bags without a wrapping of paper let alone plastic.
Is that where we're going?
Superfluous packaging is one of those marketing frivolities manufacturers obviously find profitable. Provided it is thrown away in the right place it does no harm.