One of our regular contributors, Phil Hall, looks at the success of the recently-introduced plastic bag charge in England, and asks if there are lessons for the completion of the UK’s stalled metric changeover.
It has been reported recently that the campaign to reduce the number of disposable plastic bags in shops has been a success¹. This is good news and there are a some interesting features:
- Prior to the introduction of the 5p charge, surveys showed 50% support for the initiative. Afterwards that support rose to 75% ²
- An environmental psychologist³ said that it worked because it only required a small change in behaviour.
- It followed a lead from politicians.
It is also the case that the legal change was a European initiative, which begs the question as to whether the UK would have done it independently.
So what has this to do with metrication? Well it’s just an observation that when a case is strong enough it doesn’t have to be based on popularity. Metrication is probably not as popular as the reduction in the use of disposable plastic shopping bags but it wouldn’t be hard to attain it with a sensible campaign from the right quarters.
Adopting the kilometre in place of the mile, or say the kg instead of the lb is not much of a hardship. Surely worthwhile if it gets rid of the irritating issues such as of having to use two systems of measurement while being familiar with neither or wasting school children’s time teaching conversions when one system of measurement is all they should need.
- A BBC TV news reporter spoke to an Environmental Psychologist who quoted the figures.
- As in reference 2, spoke about behavioural aspects.