I want single use plastic bags banned in Western Australia. The ACT, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have already made the call, and Queensland has just announced that their ban will commence in 2018. Which I believe leaves WA, NSW and Victoria left to catch up.
The statistics on plastic are huge and scary – I’m not a plastic bag researcher, but the order of magnitude that various reports say are big. We’ve all seen the photos of poor seabirds with stomachs full of plastic, or turtles entwined in rubbish. We know that the production of plastic requires fossil fuels which contribute to climate change, and they need massive amounts of transport to get to the shop checkouts – more pollution.
But these aren’t the only reasons I want plastic bags banned. A lot of what I do as a Landcare Officer and as a Katanning EcoHouse sustainability educator is about humans and their behaviour. Banning plastic bags is as much about people as it is about plastic.
Whether or not plastic bags are the biggest plastic or litter or climate change problem is almost irrelevant. They are, and the banning of them will be, a symbol and a value statement.
Banning the bag says that we as a society want to make improvements to our environment. It says that we accept responsibility for making decisions that put the planet above ‘convenience’ and creates a culture of environmental concern.
It says ‘we don’t accept a throw-away lifestyle’ and will hopefully make people stop and think about the disposability of so much that we have come to think of as ‘normal’. Plastic bags may be the first domino, with further phase-outs possibly to follow (think bottled water, straws, disposable coffee cups…). But someone has to knock down that first domino or the rest simply don’t fall either.
Banning the bag will also be a bit of a kick up the rear end about being lazy. Why should a shop provide you with a free bag, when you are perfectly capable of carrying your purchase in your hands, or bringing your own bag? It will give a message that says ‘get organised and don’t expect someone else to provide you with a solution’. Unfortunately, I think our society has fallen into a bit of state of expectation that ‘someone’ will provide, and we get very upset when it doesn’t happen. Um, hello?
Arguments such as ‘but I use them in my bin and will now have to buy bags’ are very short sighted. How about look at your bin and work out why you need a plastic bag liner anyway. Is is because you have yucky food scraps in there? Time to get a worm farm. Or make liners from newspaper (check out some great YouTube videos on this!). Or use a different sort of bag, such as a bread bag or the liner from your Weet-Bix box.
A ban on plastic bags is also something that will affect everyone, and that’s what makes it so important to do. It won’t just get one sector of the community, it will make us all change our behaviour. And that is what our planet needs most.Please – write or email our Environment Minister, talk to your local Chamber of Commerce and get the message out that a ban on plastic bags is important for more than just litter reduction. And say no to plastic bags when you shop.
Pictures: greenartnetwork.org via pinterest ; HuTui6.com