10 July 2018Opinion
Single-use plastic bags are being banned and phased out across Australian supermarket and grocery-store chains. Supermarket giant Woolworths introduced a nationwide ban on these bags at all of its stores on 20 June (including BWS liquor stores and Big W), and rival supermarket Coles followed on 30 June. Consumers now need to bring their own reusable bags with them to the shops, or purchase them for an additional charge at the checkout.
Many shoppers remain confused about the change and, as with most changes, the decision has been met with some disapproval. But although it may seem inconvenient to have to carry around reusable bags and try to remember them every time you visit the shops, these changes have been made as a result of extensive research, and with great benefits for society and the environment.
Once people have fully understood the situation and have settled into the habit of carrying reusable bags, the attitude toward further changes like this will be more positive in the future.
To many, the banning of plastic bags may be perceived as a negligible attempt to reduce pollution, but it is a necessary and significant step to a cleaner future.
According to Ocean Crusaders, Australians use 6.9 billion plastic bags a year, with 3.6 billion of those being shopping bags. Only 10% of Australians recycle their plastic bags, and it costs the government in excess of $4 million to clean up plastic bag litter each year.
These statistics alone makes it much easier to understand why a plastic bag ban is being put in place, and makes you wonder why it wasn’t implemented much sooner.
Whether you are for preserving of our planet, caring for the health of our flora and fauna, or supporting the prevention of global warming — or even if you don’t — there is no denying that the banning of plastic bags is a simple move that can only benefit us all in the long run.
Some people argue that shoppers will continue to toss the bags after every use as opposed to recycling them, regardless of the cost or material. If this was the case it could theoretically be just as bad, if not more devastating, for the environment.
But a national report from Keep Australia Beautiful for 2016-17 found that a drop in plastic bag litter did in fact occur after bans were put in place, particularly in the ACT and Tasmania. Additionally, the ACT’s bag ban in 2014 saw a significant drop in plastic bag waste, down from 266 tonnes to 171 tonnes after its implementation.
The research shows that a ban like this will likely have a positive impact. Having to pay extra at the checkout will discourage people from using plastic bags for small purchases, and encourage shoppers to remember to reuse bags.
Although some may still believe that the ban itself is a meaningless gesture that will have little impact, the ban is a step in the right direction for further preserving our planet. This may lead to further ways to improve our consumption habits in order to reach a cleaner, safer future.
Other than laziness, what excuse is there not to minimise our pollution and wastage? It’s often that we are reluctant to implement simple lifestyle changes because we are already accustomed to living our lives, and are resistant to small, positive changes.
Regardless of how you feel about the plastic bag ban, it is a positive change for everyone.
Even though we may have to endure the painful and irritating practice of keeping reusable bags in our cars, future generations will surely thank us for our small sacrifice when they are able to continue living on a green, healthy planet.
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