Friday, 6 March 2015

The Curious Thing About the Plastic Bag

I set off on this tour of NSW with two aims - the first to buy local produce (failed) and to not take home a plastic bag from the Supermarket. I was getting very disheartened by the attempts of the last aim, until I arrived in Canberra.

Turn back the time to 2011 the ACT introduces a plastic bag ban - all lightweight bags were replaced with heavy bags and shoppers encouraged to bring their own bags. In 2013 a report was requested by the Opposition (Liberal), their theory was that the ban hadn't worked and Canberrians wanted them back. The study showed the following:
* 65% supported the ban, an increase of 7% over a similar survey held in September 2012, while those against the ban fell to 26% from 33%
* 71% said they did not want the ban overturned and 68% said the ban should be implemented nationally
* 171 tonnes of plastic bags were sent to landfill, a 36% decrease from 6 months prior to the ban
* While the sale of bin liners increased after the ban, sales were now lower than pre-ban
Source ACT Government

All good news; wouldn't it be terrific if we had a country wide ban on lightweight plastic bags? Less wild animals being injured; Less rubbish floating around our waterways and parklands (the Australian Government spends more than $200 million per year picking up rubbish); Less bags in landfill (takes hundreds of years to breakdown) to name a few (check out this link from NT EPA for more).

Here is the thing, if Government or Corporates will not take a stand on this issue, it is then up to the individual. So I grabbed myself this handy dandy insulated shopping basket (folds down to take up minimal space when travelling) so that I was armed and ready to complete my mission of no plastic bags!

And when I would excitedly arrive at the checkout ready to pay and put my groceries in my own shopping bag the checkout person would go into an absolute spin. You help them by getting the basket sorted, but they are still trigger happy to get those plastic bags out. When you say no plastic bags, they are lost - where do they put your groceries. When you explain that you brought everything to the counter in your bag and that it should all fit back in they can't cope. Is it that we need to train checkout operators how to pack in non-plastic bags? I just don't get it.

On one particular shopping trip we had arrived in Coffs Harbour after a long hot day on the road, fluked a park in the carpark with the Camper Trailer on the back. Grizzly child and husband. Stressed mother and wife. I gave up, I gave up trying to save getting plastic bags and I felt like we were drowning in them. They were everywhere on the fruit and vegetables, items packed in double bags, 2 items in a bag (WTF). I almost cried. It was so sad.

After that I still insisted on using my own shopping basket and packing everything back in it. I asked for boxes in bottle shops. I kept trying to keep the good job up. But I was so disappointed in how we as a society were just being so wasteful with plastic bags, when it is just so easy not to use them.

And then I arrived in Canberra, PLASTIC BAG BAN. It was one of the things that impressed me most about our Nations Capital. It is a start and hopefully other Governments follow. Maybe even corporations take more of a stand and stop using plastic in their shops, Bunnings, IKEA, McDonalds, Best and Less are some that come to mind who do not have a plastic bag in their shop. Sadly Target could not keep the course on no free plastic bags.

It is up to us as individuals to take a stand - buy yourself a great re-usable shopping bag and keep on using it!