Plastic bag ban survival guide

Australian Ministers of the Environment are meeting next week in Sydney to discuss among other things restricting the free availability of plastic bags to shoppers.

One problem is that some of our beautiful turtles get mixed up between plastic bags and their favourite meal, jellyfish. (Yum.)

Responsible people generally don’t let their bags get away from them and end up confusing turtles, but somehow they still get out there. Some litter isn’t intentional, but bags have a life of their own and they just love to escape, blow around aimlessly for a while, and then get into places they don’t belong.

Queensland, NSW and Victoria are contemplating a ban. SA, Tasmania, NT and ACT already have one. The fact that lightweight plastic bags are banned in places like Adelaide and Canberra suggests that the world will not end if it happens in other states too.

If it does happen, it won’t be overnight, so here are some tips for getting ready:

  1. Check around home to see how many reusable bags you already have
  2. If you have enough, gather them into one or two bunches that you can leave in the car for grocery shopping
  3. Take advantage of freebies at events where they give away green bags to add to your stockpile
  4. Buy some extra reusable bags if you need them (the cooler bags are good for transporting perishables)
  5. Experiment at the shops, bringing your own bags
  6. Find ways to remind yourself (e.g. clip your grocery list to your bags)
  7. If you carry a handbag, get one or two nylon carry bags that roll-up into a tiny ball and keep them with you for unplanned shops
  8. If you haven’t got any green bags and it’s getting close to the ban starting, hold on to some heavier plastic bags from department stores that you can reuse several times.

Single use plastic bags are something we can honestly do without. Yes, we might have to buy bin liners at ten cents a pop, but at least they don’t leak and the research shows that the reduction in plastic bags will significantly exceed the bin liners sold.

The decision to ban plastic bags doesn’t involve some 30 year abstract debate over science and complicated political posturing like climate change has.

It’s something we can, do and it will make a difference.

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