Straw and Bag Ban commits to a greener future

A bag that’s good, plastic straws out and no more shrink-wrapped bananas 

The bag-ban is coming, Hallelujah! Last weekend I emptied out the cupboard under the sink where I shove my lightweight shopping bags and was horrified at the huge flimsy pile-up of plastic. I pledge to reuse every last one.

I have sturdy reusable shopping bags in the boot of my car. I go to Aldi-Wednesdays, come on. But while the plastic bags are still available, that’s generally where they stay. I need coercion. My memory will never save my feet, but I think if I’m obliged to shell out 99 cents for a bag or walk back to my car, my recall will miraculously improve.

Living in Europe for a decade, I routinely returned every single soft-drink bottle, beer stubby and plastic crate to the supermarket for a modest return. You place the bottles on a fun conveyor-belt at the rear of your local supermarket. A gnome inside the machine adds up the deposit for you, makes a satisfying “BEEP” and the money is credited to your bill at the checkout. Or paid to you in cash, no purchase necessary!

It usually sliced about 5 euro off the groceries depending on how much you’d drunk that week. In any event, it was far more rewarding than the embarrassing Monday-morning ‘rinkle-rinkle’ of beer bottles crashing into the wheelie bin. Win-win!

Despite being lazy and generally awful, I do re-use my lightweight plastic bags: for cleaning the cat-litter tray, lining the kitchen- and bathroom bins or wrapping up stinky stuff and potato peelings but I won’t be sorry to see them go. They’re quite flimsy and prone to holes and mostly go to landfill or worse, into the environment.

Local marine-debris clean-up coordinator, Ian Anderson said the trouble with plastic was that it “breaks up” rather than “breaking down”: “One piece of plastic today might be ten pieces of plastic tomorrow and 150 the next day, and in time it’s particles of micro-plastic and that’s when it winds up in the food chain,” he said.

Woolworths says it has reduced the plastic packaging on its produce in Australia by140 tonnes of plastic in the last year. A further 80 produce items are earmarked for plastic reduction trials in the next 12 months. If only fruit like bananas and oranges had something like their own protective coating….

The launch of a new kind of ‘green bag’ and the phase-out of plastic straws from sale are two sustainability initiatives regional Woolworths stores will be taking on, in conjunction with the ban on lightweight plastic bags next week (June 20).

Woolworths Boyne Island, Gladstone Valley, Kinkora and Kirkwood Group Manager, Emina Demirovic said the reusable “Bag for Good” costing 99 cents, will be replaced by Woolworths for free if they are damaged regardless of the point of purchase. Money from the sale of the bags will go towards Junior Landcare programs.

Plastic straws will also no longer be available for sale at Woolies from the end of this year: “Across Australia and New Zealand this move will see us remove 134 million straws from circulation each year,” Emina said.” 

Bag Ban – The Facts

  • The Plastic bag ban applies to single-use, lightweight plastic shopping bags under 35 microns thick
  • Retailers who don’t comply will be fined more than $6000 per offence
  • It costs more to produce reusable bags, so retailers will charge a small fee to cover costs
  • Most retailers will have reusable options from more durable plastic bags for a few cents up to $5 for locally-made, hessian/canvas/jute versions
  • Close to one billion single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags are used by Queenslanders each year – One billion shopping bags = around 10,000 plastic shopping bags per seat in the MCG (imagine all the rustling)
  • While most of these bags end up in a landfill, around 16 million of these plastic shopping bags end up in the environment each year