CommentLife & Style

Plastic – Not all that Fantastic

Australia has found a way to convert waste into roads and most recently to generate fuel – but somehow a portion of Australians still can’t fathom nor cope with accepting and more importantly, taking their reusable bag from home to their weekly grocery shop.

It’s all about routine right?

Since major retailers have decided to partake in their major and considerable role in tackling the war on waste – some Australians still don’t get the image.

Plastic isn’t all that fantastic.

Yes, that bin liner does prove to be significant and useful – but where does it all end up? Whether it be shipped off to China, buried at your local garbage tip or floating around somewhere in our surrounding oceans – it is there, and unfortunately it won’t decompose as fast as what we’d assume.

Up to 1000 years to be exact.

So in the height of all of the confusion, the bans and an overload of plastic packaging, here’s three things that the plastic bag ban debate has raised:

1. Coles just can’t make up their mind:

It seems that major Australian grocery giants like much beloved Woolworths, Aldi and IGA all have this plastic bag ban under control. Surprisingly, one of the top competitors, Coles, has subsequently lost shoppers due to their double backflip of indecisiveness. Hunter and Bligh conducted a survey on the Plastic Bag Ban and we found that Coles lost 3% of their shoppers to Aldi due to the plastic bag debacle!

From banning the bag, to providing the bag again and then recalling statements to ban the bag once again.

Thankfully, to lure the customers in and away from competing Woolworths stores, Coles released a limited edition ‘Coles Little Shop collectables.’ Of course, the 30 much-loved Australian miniatures include the likes of Vegemite, Milo, Nutella and even a teeny-tiny VapoRub – all made of plastic.

Pushing customers into stores with plastic collectables dismisses the fact some one in Coles Head Office just wasn’t too sure whether they wanted to take a stance on this war on waste or maybe they simply just wanted to have their shoppers confused.

If you’re not searching for the cheapest complete set of Little Shop collectables on eBay or Facebook Marketplace, you’re probably one of the many Australians wondering if someone got fired from their double backflip outrage.

2. Australians don’t want to be inconvenienced:

Since the infamous plastic bag was introduced in the early 1980’s, Australians have been stuck in an infectious routine of using single-use bags on a regular basis. Being handed a free bag to use to line the bin at home and then stashing the remainder underneath the kitchen cupboard does create a nasty habit.

With 49% of Australian Hunter and Bligh readers admitting that the pre-existing plastic bag was solely used for bin lining purposes, there’s no doubt that once something is removed and replaced with a fee (also a lifetime guarantee) we can get a bit angry. Especially when 70% of us believe that the reason why some of the nation had an opposing view was simply put down to an inconvenience for having to bring bags from home.

Interestingly, 14% believe that the entire plastic bag ban was simply put in place as a revenue maker for these supermarket giants to increase profits – despite all of the money made from sales of the Woolworths Bag for Good going directly to the Junior Landcare grants program.

Brad Banducci, Woolworths Group CEO said, “we appreciate forming new habits is an adjustment for some of our customers and our recent complimentary bag offer was aimed at providing a little extra help during the transition. We believe now is the time to encourage and reinforce greener habits…”

3. The war on waste

Unfortunately, using reusable bags or ditching plastic coloured straws won’t solve the issue of the floating island of plastic estimated to be three times the size of France, that’s in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean.

As Australian Ethical reported in 2017, “Australian consumers currently use 3.92 billion plastic bags each year,” with only 3% of which are being recycled.

With potatoes sold in plastic bags, bananas covered in cling-wrap and the plastic fruit and vegetable bags still available in most major grocery retailers across Australia; it’s incredible to think that we are even offered these options even when we wash our fruit and vegetables before use. Excess and useless packaging is becoming more of the norm even if the plastic bag ban has taken affect across all Australian states.

Are we that reliant and obsessed with plastic?

After realising that burning our waste in our backyards wasn’t so good for our air quality, we banned that effectively immediately. But today, our rubbish is accumulated on a weekly basis by local councils and transported to major garbage tips to be buried. Why isn’t there a safer product to use that would minimise the overall effect on our world?

Chilean engineers from Solubag have miraculously created hydro-degradable material similar to the texture and durability of plastic, but it can disintegrate once submerged in hot or cold water. With no affect on water quality, once the plastic like material has disintegrated it is safe enough to drink.

Learning that there are many families across the world that are living waste free might be surprising to some. But, without denying, the families admit that the transition into waste free can prove to be difficult.

A lot of the work is through finding better alternatives, learning about recyclables, composting and reusing. Local councils across Australia need to work more closely with its residents providing information on free services and more sustainable and environmentally friendly waste solutions.

With whales being found with plastic bags in their stomachs, oysters growing with traces of plastic, and even sea turtles with straws wedged up their tiny noses; hopefully, the plastic bag ban is just the beginning.

Feature image: John Cancalosi, National Geographic