Most of us want to reduce our plastic bag usage and wastage, so what is the best way? We all need bags to cart our increasing shopping items so why shouldnt it be compulsory for supermarkets and other retailers to only use bio-degradable shopping bags? Some supermarkets are already using biodegradable shopping bags, such as IGA Supermarkets, these bags can be re-used to dispose of waste within the household. Meaning that the bags are being re-used and you dont have to purchase additional rubbish bin liners for your home.
It has been said that at least 267 species are affected by the plastic bags that end up in the ocean, this is estimated to kill over 100,000 marine mammals and turtles each year. Sea turtles mistake the plastic for jellyfish, their main food source, and then they choke.
Biodegradable plastic bags are often made from farmed products like cornstarch which in the right conditions break down into elements like carbon dioxide and water. Biodegradable bags need to compost within 12 weeks and fully biodegrade within 6 months to meet international standards.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett has confirmed he'll phase out all plastic bags by the end of this year, if necessary with a legislative ban. This may result in stores introducing only biodegradable bags and more encouragement for shoppers to bring along their recycle bags. Signs in shopping centre car parks asking "Did you remember your recycle bags?" would combat those shoppers who forget to grab their bags out of the car before walking inside. Some shoppers also say no to plastic bags and place all their groceries back into the trolley and when they reach the car place their groceries in large baskets, resulting in the use of no bags and a convenient basket to carry the groceries from the car inside.
Many retail stores have turned to using re-usable cloth bags for purchases, then you can re-use these for your groceries or other things at home, some of these you do have to pay for though. While these cloth and woven bags are great to re-use at the supermarket you are not likely to throw your food and other waste away in these, meaning we still need to purchase some type of rubbish bag.
LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics is sending giant bag monsters to descend on lunchtime shoppers, urging them to swap their plastic shopping bags for a free, reusable, eco-friendly tote bag. LUSH wants to trash plastic bags as Australians are using approximately 5.6 billion petroleum-based shopping bags each year. Plastic bags get used for less than an hour and then from there take up to 1,000 years to break down in the envrioment. LUSH wants to see the Federal Government and other retailers with customers and campaign support get plastic bags out of our citites. Mark Lincoln, Managing Director Lush Australasia Retail Pty Ltd. "The two things people should take when shopping are their wallets and their reusable tote bag."
Beginning on the 2^nd of July 2008 customers can go into LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetic stores and find out more information and sign a petition urging the Enviroment Protecrtion and Heritage Council to ban plastic bags and promote a sustainable alternative. If you do not live near a LUSH store you can sign a petition online at the Animal Australias website: www.animalsaustralia.org/features/say_no_to_plastic_bags.php
But are cloth & woven bags the answer? They only solve part of the problem.... We still need some type of bag to dispose of our end waste, 'rubbish' bags are currently not biodegradable, so reusing biodegradable shopping bags is one answer, legislating the use of only biodegradable plastic bags within Australia another possibility...
What if the government passed a law that only allowed retailers to supply biodegradable bags for the country to use in all shopping. Encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags or reuse these bio-degradable bags. Stores such as fast-food chains McDonalds, Nandos and Oporto and the Body Shop have introduced using paper bags, there is no reason other stores cannot lead by their examples. Ireland did it years ago, China banned handing out plastic bags from June 1st this year. In China there is a tax on plastic bags and plastic bags are banned from all public transportation, including buses, trains and planes and from airports and scenic locations. In Australia, Bunnings have reduced their usage of plastic bags by over 99% as they began charging 10 cents per plastic bag, other retailers such as IKEA and ALDI have also began charging for plastic bags. In April 2008, South Australia announced a ban of plastic bags from large supermarkets. A recent trial has been introduced in 10 Victorian Supermarket chains Safeway and Coles trialing charging 10-25 cents for customers use of plastic bags.
Premier Anna Bligh of Queensland says she doesnt approve of charging for plastic bags as it would be another impost on families already struggling to meet rising household costs. Anna Blight is committed to "In this government's ongoing fight to protect our environment, Queensland will push for a total ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags, and call for urgent work to be done to identify an environmentally friendly alternative."
The Australian government reports we use approximately 6.9 million plastic bags each year so next time the cashier asks if you would like a plastic bag (biodegradable or not) for your small purchase think about whether you really do need it? Most of the bags we are taking with our purchases are ending up in the trash or as litter causing other major environmental problems. At this stage if you really do need to grab a plastic bag do, but ensure you take it back to a Coles store and place it in the blue plastic bag bin, that recycles all plastic bags.
So what is the answer, charge a levy on plastic bags, legistate only biodegradable plastic bags allowed or switch to paper?
What do you think would work best? Have your say at www.femail.com.au/blogs