The Plastic Bag Ban will commence on 1st July 2018 around Australia – anyone caught with or using a plastic shopping bag after this date will be ridiculed via a severe public "bagging out" before being jailed for environmental vandalism.
The first part of the sentence above is true – the plastic bag ban will take effect in 5 days (as at the release date of this article) except for Woolworths customers who saw the ban begin early on 20th June because Woolies just had to be the first to virtue signal. Or were they…? That's right, ALDI was the first! So progressively European and when the American Costco came to Oz they never bothered with bags at all because they sell in bulk already wrapped in a ton of plastic anyway.
Bags like this are BANNED (image above)
I was being facetious insinuating jail-time for using plastic bags, then again, who knows what the future holds if the current social-political climate continues on the same trajectory. I suspect it will likely be a crime to drive a petrol car in 10 years time, beef will be taxed extra because cows fart too much, and burning wood to keep warm in lieu of expensive electricity will be more popular in the future than it was in the 1800's.
I'll be completely frank with you from the beginning of this article (all jokes and sarcasm aside) and state my conflicted opinion on this new plastic bag policy because the environmental love of nature side of me wants to believe it can make a difference but my logical/practical/skeptical side can't see the benefits at all and that makes me angry.
I have to say that I'm a bit confused as to why the Government is calling it a ban on "single-use" bags because I always got more than one use out of mine. For example, our free plastic supermarket bags would double as bin liners and also fruit bags for visiting friends and family when giving them some of our backyard produce – you can fit at least 20 oranges in one Coles bag so they are/were really handy!
We've stockpiled a whole heap in two of those special purpose cotton sock thingy plastic bag holders in preparation for the ban so we should be right for some time.
Our (now redundant) plastic bag holder (image above)
Nevertheless, I do consider this ban on "one use" plastic bags here in sunny Queensland and around Australia as a GOOD thing but probably not for the reasons you might think…
I understand the damage plastic bags have on the environment in particular aquatic animals such as fish, turtles, and seabirds etc. The optics of a bird hopelessly wrapped in a plastic bag posted by Sir David Attenborough on social media is horrendous and powerful. However, I'm skeptical that random bans here and there on these types of bags will make any difference at all to convince the world collectively to do the same because collective cooperation worldwide is what NEEDS to happen to really FIX the plastic pollution problem.
Sure, it does place us on the moral high ground to show the world how committed we are to combating pollution by using less plastic and perhaps shame other countries to do the same. I really do get that. However, I fail to see how realistic this endeavour is to initiate world change. Maybe I'll be proven wrong in years to come.
Furthermore, I see plenty of emotional argument for the banning of plastic with little evidence or fact-based support for why the Earth will be better off. For example, the Productivity Commission here in Australia did a study back in 2006 which found plastic shopping bags used in landfill actually helped restrict the release of carbon emissions due to the slow breakdown. Since single-use plastic bags require about 26 times LESS energy to make than the standard reusable bags it shouldn't be heresy to ask the question, "are we replacing one bag with another that's environmentally worse?"
Then there's also the argument about what isn't banned and that's quite a lot! Bags that won't be banned are barrier bags (like the thin type used for loose fruit & veg); garbage bags; department store bags; nappy bags; dog shit bags; and bossy old bags – everyone knows one. Half-hearted comes to mind even though the thin plastic shopping bags are most commonly seen littering the planet ANY plastic bag (or plastic anything) has the potential to swirl around in the ocean no matter what its original purpose.
It's interesting to hear the MSM spruik loudly that apparently, 80% of Australians want this ban to happen with random interviews of Normies outside shopping centres stating how happy they are about the change. And I'd be happy too if I blissfully thought that the world ended at Australia's shoreline but it doesn't!
Therefore, I won't be one to proudly carry my reusable bag with my head held high like someone who has just saved the planet from impending doom because I know for every reusable bag I use there will be 1000's of single-use plastic bags floating around in Asia, Africa, South America, and even the USA. One trend I noticed in Thailand when we visited there in 2016 was the use of plastic bags for drinks and wet food instead of containers. At least containers are easier to reuse or recycle but single-use plastic bags are more popular because they're cheaper and require less storage space.
Plastic bags in Thailand used for drinks & food (image above)
Now, if the whole world stopped MANUFACTURING these types of bags then THAT would actually make a significant impact on the problem. If we're going to do it then let's do it! But I think banning bags from select areas around the world is just a feeble attempt at virtue signaling and about as effective as combating childhood obesity by banning sugary drinks within the schoolyard only.
Speaking of sugar, I'm hoping this ban will help to reduce the amount of packaged junk food we consumers consume. Instead, I'm predicting a drop in people buying packaged items such as large bottled soft drinks, confectionary, and frozen fast foods because they simply won't have the unlimited bags to carry all those two for the price of one 2L Cokes back to the 2wd family utility.
I can't help trolly perving when I go to the supermarket (it passes the long wait times in the checkout queue) and some of the absolute crap people buy is amazing! Trollies full to the brim of processed junk all wrapped in plastic – imagine that gunk flowing through their system in one end and out the other. The three most used areas in the home – kitchen – recycle bin – and the toilet.
Don't get me wrong, a naughty indulgence in moderation I think is perfectly fine but if you're eating/drinking processed packaged food more often than not – well, there's a BIG problem and the signs are probably obvious both physically and psychologically. Hopefully, this new bag law will be the catalyst to change the habit and people will become more considered as to what they're buying due to the limitations of carriage space.
Indeed, I'll be advocating for people to go a step further and use this forced change in behaviour to reflect differently about how and where they shop. Primarily less shopping at the supermarket and more growing fruit & vegetables at home. Then venture to the shop only to get necessities or to buy the minimum such as a choice of protein to go with the salad, herbs, and veggies you grew yourself. Personally, I rarely buy more than what I can physically carry; for example, I will only take one cooler bag into ALDI's and if I do fill it then it's time to pay and go.
On the other hand, one could buy in bulk and then skip the supermarkets for longer periods. Yesterday, the better half and I ventured to Cosco for the first time in about 4 years and "bulked up" taking full advantage of the lower prices compared to Woolworths and Coles. We thought, why not!? Buy our groceries in larger batches, store them away to save money, and make fewer trips to the supermarket in the future. No bags required just one humungous trolly and a good set of forearms to push it.
We all know that humans, being who they are, will forget to bring their reusable bags. It's inevitable! And, they'll be too tight (or poor) to buy reusable bags on a whim with abandoned trollies full of food bound to become an increasing sight littering the supermarket aisles as people suddenly recall leaving their bags on the kitchen bench. Oh bugger, Brian… You forgot the bags… Not again Margaret… Well, you are a mere male… Let's go get takeaway.
Or how about this, they forget their bags so instead of buying another half dozen reusables they simply buy a roll of bin liners because they have to buy them now anyway since "single-use" bags aren't an option to use TWICE anymore. I can really see people doing that…
Plus, I'm sure there will be a huge increase in shoppers pushing their trolly all the way home now instead of grabbing the bags and dumping the shiny cart in the local park. Here's a tip, they could remove their shirt and tie the neck up in a knot then pile their groceries in like a makeshift sack. This would enable them to still leave the trolly with its mates in the park for us all to admire as we drive past but perhaps I'm overthinking it. On reflection…yes I am.
At the very least, we'll see people tipping their loose groceries out of the cart directly into the car boot to become a mixed grocery salad by the time they get home. Oh, how the future of a home dad like me going out doing the boring grocery grind suddenly seems amusingly entertaining.
Then there's the increased wait time as neurotic BYO bag ladies methodically pack their own groceries – we've all suffered the excruciating pain and frustration being in the queue behind one of "them" before… Except now there's going to be more of "them" and "us" wasting valuable living time waiting in the queue as they pack, unpack, and repack their bags to ensure the cat food isn't mixed in with the gluten-free cake mix. To be gender fair though don't think I haven't noticed the stereotypical male retirees who are supposed to have "all the time in the world" now they've left the workforce but in reality are more impatient than I am. It's quite probable this extra stuffing around at the checkout will drive them over the edge… and I'm completely at peace with that.
On the upside, there'll be more chance to individualise and buy reusable bags with custom logos and slogans that show everyone their virtuous personality or team they follow. A few weeks ago, I saw a lady 3 deep in front of me placing her groceries into custom reusable bags with team logo/slogans (I think it was the Warriors Rugby Club) and I tried to take a sly photo to show you but as I lined the shot up I noticed the chick behind me giving such a scowling stare it intimidated me into slowing putting my phone away. Just kidding, I acted like I put my phone away and took the image when she wasn't looking.
Lady with a custom reusable shopping bag (image above)
Anyway, custom bags like these here on eBay designed specifically for trollies or with your favourite team or cause can only be a good thing for small business I suppose. Even so, the clear winner will be the supermarkets as sales of their own bags are set to skyrocket! Oh, wait, what, they have an ulterior motive other than saving the planet? Imagine my shock…
Let's talk hygiene. It's a well-known fact that in areas where plastic supermarket bags were banned there was also a substantial rise in food poisoning. I just hope people remember not to confuse the bag that had the leaking chicken meat in it last time with the loose salad mix next time they shop otherwise the consequences could be dire (or diar-rhea). In my opinion, people should always be careful and aware of cross-contamination regarding foods so this point is a rather mute one to be used against the ban.
And if people think reusable bags are environmentally friendly then sit them in the back of a vehicle (particularly exposed to sunlight) for a few weeks and see how fast they degrade into millions of pieces – imagine breathing those particles in or what damage it will do floating around in the environment.
But here's a recommendation, why not try one of those string bags that you can wash?! Give your groceries some air… Or for more carriage space, how about hubby with a duel hessian saddle bag grocery carriage system slung across his shoulders like a donkey navigating the markets in Afghanistan. This inexpensive organic plastic bag replacement could future proof your shopping experience in readiness for the looming petrol car ban because when it comes in only the rich will afford electric vehicles with the rest of us going back to horse and cart. Then they'll ban horses because of methane and climate change so eventually, we'll have to walk. Think of the exercise we'll get.
Yes, Mark, you make a lot of good points except many other places around the world such as France and California have already banned bags so why shouldn't we join in? Well, have you visited Asia or Africa lately? Plastic bags are rife! Good luck ever getting them to conform to a cleaner world ideology. I suspect, they look at our attempt to lead the world in plastic bag virtue signaling as a weakness and I doubt that our small act of self-flagellation will convince anyone to "follow our lead."
I remember plastic bags were touted as the big "savior" of trees by the greenies in the 80's – I guess they were wrong… again. Take away food stores like Maccas and KFC reverted to paper bags (back from plastic) ages ago – those fast food giants are so responsible! It takes 8 times the amount of energy to produce a paper bag over plastic not to mention the trees.
What really annoys me is how we all have to be inconvenienced or forced to change our behaviour because of the few morons around us who don't dispose of plastic bags in a responsible way. The same morons who abuse pain relief medication or pseudoephedrine so that the rest of us responsible normal people now have to pay to see a doctor just to relieve the symptoms of a headache or a runny nose.
Yes, I understand that a world without plastic bags would mean less pollution but if everyone did the right thing there wouldn't be a problem and I do fail to see the logic in how refraining from something helps anything if the majority or worst offenders are not joining in.
It's a bit like banning your child from eating chewing gum because of other people sticking it underneath the bus seat – the problem won't be solved and all that happens is your child becomes resentful since they always placed their used gum in the bin anyway.
How about pesticides or herbicides? They're knowingly bad for the environment and are probably the cause of many unexplained cancers in humans and animals so why aren't they banned? It's too hard, isn't it… It's much easier to bash and control the western democratised obedient citizen than tackle big Pharma or big Ag head on.
I haven't given any alternatives a lot of thought but how about this: instead of a complete ban on single-use bags why don't we tax them at 5c a bag with the proceeds going directly into research/development to recovering and recycling plastic? Can we build futuristic robotic ships to find and collect plastic pollution from the oceans or pay poor people in developing countries money per returned bag for recycling? I'm sure we as a global community could manage such a scheme and I'm certain people wouldn't mind paying a small price at the checkout for the cause – I know I wouldn't.
Plastic litter – a common sight on beaches around the world (image above)
So my question is, do the State Governments around Australia really want change or are they using their citizens to virtue signal knowing deep down it's just a token effort? As I see it, millions of Australians most of whom are responsible plastic bag users will be forced by the authorities to find another way to get their groceries home whilst Asian factories continue to pump out plastic bags by the billions.
What pressure will greens groups and western governments place on developing countries to make them realise the majority of plastic bag pollution in the ocean is from them? It's one thing to ban people who are already doing the right thing from using plastic bags but how are you going to stop the millions that aren't?
Honestly, I don't think the Western ban on plastic shopping bags is going to change anything regarding the world's problem with plastic polluting the land and waterways. I wish it would but it won't. All I can see is another imposed cost on the consumer and in an economic environment that already is threatening people's livelihoods and pushing them further to the brink I wonder if saving the natural environment will become a lower priority the poorer they get.
How much more debt and indirect taxes in the name of the environment can Australian's endure before they break? High energy prices, high fuel prices, higher water bills, higher household rates, all at a time of unprecedented low wages growth gives us a social environment on the edge of collapse and I wonder which straw will be the one to bring it down. Worthy cause or not, there's no doubt this change will be an extra cost burden on everyday Australians.
Like I said at the start of this article – I'm conflicted about the merits of the plastic bag ban – but I do hope people, in general, take this opportunity to reduce their overall consumption of plastic wrapped foods by growing more at home and discovering the benefits this type of lifestyle can bring to their health and the world environment.
We all rely too much on the powerful major supermarkets for our food and all these corporates do is treat us like children cash cows so help break their dominance over the masses by growing your own, buying organically from the Sunday markets, or shopping at small businesses. Sure, the world would be a better place without plastic bags but it would also benefit from more competition and as a consequence less control by big corporations over the general public.
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