Australians currently use 3.9 billion plastic bags annually, which means an overage of over 10.6 million new bags are used every single day. Now that's a lot of plastic waste! Especially considering the average plastic shopping bag is used only for a few minutes then spends a lifetime entombed in landfill.
If the bags don't make it to landfill, there is a high chance that they will find their way to our ocean, where their similarity in appearance to jellyfish means they are an ingestion threat to our endangered sea turtles.
The problem with single-use plastic bags is a problem that resonates with many Australians. So much so, that they have been officially banned in the Northern Territory, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania, with other states looking to follow suit.
Within these states that are yet to gain political support for a ban, communities are coming together with their own ideas on how to reduce their use of single-use plastic bags on a more local scale. Check out the links below for some great stories and resources to get you started on your own community's plastic bag free journey.
From the Change.org website:
The Project has teamed up with Clean Up Australia to call on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, and WA Premier Mark McGowan to #BanTheBag. These three great Australians could see single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags banned across Australia, thanks to existing bans in South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, the ACT, and an impending ban in Queensland. Support for existing bans is overwhelming. In South Australia, 81% of the consumers strongly support the ban. As do 73% of Territorians, and 70% of Australians living in the ACT.
Sign this petition and help show our politicians we want to #banthebag for good!
Plastic bags could soon be a distant memory for Palm Cove, Far North QLD, residents and visitors as leaders push for a community-wide ban in the next six months.
Cr Brett Olds said the move to replace plastic bags with hessian would not eliminate pollution, but it was “a little step in the right direction”. “We should care about the turtles and the Reef,” Cr Olds said. “We’ve seen what happens to animals when they eat plastic bags. I went down to talk to the guy who runs the supermarket, and he’s keen as mustard. Our plan is to supply them with the first 10,000-15,000 (hessian bags) so it will come as no cost to the shop owners. Palm Cove will be the first Great Barrier Reef town to go plastic bag free.”
Cr Olds said the Cairns Regional Council was seeking advertisers to buy into the hessian bag scheme to cover the cost.
Palm Cove Village Store owner Douglas Yuen said he had no concerns about his business being impacted by the removal of plastic bags. “I think it’ll be good to go to hessian bags,” Mr Yuen said. “Most people are pretty good. A lot of them bring their own environmental bags anyway and don’t want plastic bags from us. It’ll be a lot better for the environment.”
Deli aDrift Restaurant owner Dennis Olsson said the move to free the town of plastic was one he could get behind.
“A lot of our takeaway is all packed in plastic and people then take that to the beach, or to the park, or to their apartments, and who knows what happens to it?” Mr Olsson said. “I definitely support it. I think it’s a great idea.”
On a recent beach and dune clean up of an area near Mudjimba Beach, Coolum & North Shore Coast Care volunteers found more than 100 bags of dog poo that had been thrown into the dunes. Some of the bags were degradeable bags and some were biodegradeable bags. When revegetating the dunes, our volunteers regularly find bags of dog poo so it’s unfortunately a common problem.
The use of degradeable bags means that when the bag breaks into pieces, the plastic pieces don’t go away – they just get smaller and smaller and the pieces remain in the environment. This contrasts with biodegradeable bags where the bag breaks down and returns to natural components.
are a number of ways to work on the correct disposal of dog poo bags, including bin placement, public education etc. These are important, but so is the type of dog poo bags used and this became our initial focus.
So that degradeable bags are not left in the dunes to add additional plastic into the environment, we looked into finding biodegradeable bags. Ideally dog poo bags should always go in the bin, but if they are left in the dunes a biodegradeable bag is a better (but of course not altogether ideal) option. We have two councils in our area – one council currently provides biodegradeable dog poo bags and the other currently provides degradeable dog poo bags. We were hoping to encourage both councils to only provide biodegradeable dog poo bags and wanted to see what options were available.
In 2015, Eurobodalla Shire Council and Broulee Public school worked together to trial a program aimed to help the school community reduce their dependence on single use plastics.
The program focused on single use vegetable shopping bags. Volunteers from the school’s P&C made shopping bags out of alternate materials and distributed them to students for them and their parents to use instead of plastic bags they might find at supermarkets
The program engages the whole school community, promotes environmental sustainability and provides the P&C with a small income.
In the beautiful tropical region of Far North QLD, a working group has recently formed with the aim to reduce the use of disposable plastics within the Douglas Shire. Being surrounded by 2 world heritage areas, the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, community members felt there needed to be a greater push in the local area to minimise human impacts on our unique and valuable natural ecosystems.
Representatives from local community groups, the Douglas Shire Sustainability Group and Tangaroa Blue Foundation, partnered with the local branch of Bendigo Bank and the Douglas Shire Council, to start a campaign to reduce the use of disposable plastic bags within the Douglas Shire.