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Comrades! The plastic bag reduction target is -80%

johnboy 7 November 2008 51

Simon Corbell has celebrated his return to power by announcing he wants to see a reduction of plastic bag use of 80% in the next year.

To achieve this Simon is planning “a range of measures”, the only one of which he names is a 10c levy on plastic bags.

Now here’s a question, will this include take-away? Or is it just supermarkets?

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51 Responses to Comrades! The plastic bag reduction target is -80%
tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 9:17 am 10 Nov 08

I wonder if the garbo’s will appreciate the smell of unbagged food scraps and other waste being emptied into their trucks.

PLEASE tell me you are kidding?

While out at Mugga Lane on the weekend, dropping off some stuff for recycling, it really hit me how we should have been doing this 20 years ago. Unfortunately I think the past 20 years would have been the most critical. Just imagine all of the waste we could have reused or recycle instead of just dumping it in landfill. Who said humans are fully evolved? I suppose we are at least doing what we can now.

someoneincanb someoneincanb 9:58 pm 09 Nov 08

#47 Jonathon has a point – I know lots of parents who recycle the glad-wrap they use on lunchbox sandwiches for weeks on end.

peter@home peter@home 2:13 pm 09 Nov 08

why don’t they just get the supermarkets to remove all plastic and add the cost of recycled green or blue bags to the levy? how much will that be?

astrojax astrojax 11:30 am 09 Nov 08

there’s a huge (like, about equivalent to the size of the landmass of australia) swathe of plastic floating in the middle of the pacific, off hawai’i – why don’t we harvest that to then recycle into plastic products we need? cleans up the ocean, increases biodiversity protection and a source of materials – all good huh?

oh, but we can’t do that – it wouldn’t work and would be quite beyond the realms of capacity [ ] – so acting at the source is the way forward…

Jonathon Reynolds Jonathon Reynolds 10:41 am 09 Nov 08

Something that has not been factored in to the total equation is the health impacts of using recyclable bags.

Disposable (single use) plastic bags taken from the checkout, whilst not sterile, are unlikely to have a large residual build up of dangerous bacteria on/in it.

A recyclable bag that has been used multiple times is more likely to build up (potentially harmful) levels of bacteria – from the food stuffs that have been previously transported in it, and possible lack of hygiene between uses – how is the bag stored between uses, what else it is used to transport, how often [if ever] is the bag washed, etc.

This is not an issue at the moment whilst individual food items come highly pre-packaged (the packaging protects those foodstuffs from contamination and cross contamination). However it is inevitable that hard core environmentalists will start to demand that the amount of packaging is steadily reduced which could start to heighten this problem.

I’d be curious about what the expert in the field such as our own Professor Peter Collignon at (Director of Infectious Diseases & Microbiology within ACT Health) think about this as a potential problem.

ant ant 9:32 am 09 Nov 08

The paper bags the yanks use in their supermarkets are the ones we used to use here, very thick brown paper (I noticed most if not all were 100% recycled content), with flat bottoms. The first time a checkout operator asked me “plastic or paper”? I was puzzled though.

When buying loose veggies, I don’t put them in the little plastic bags. Mainly becuase theose bags are useless and I don’t want them. I just put the veggies in to my basket, the checkkout person weighs them and then they all go into the one bag.

I guess some public re-education is going to be necessary: how to do your rubbish without these bin-liner-sized supermarket bags. Many people do feel that the way they live now is their “right”, that any change to that is an impost. That attitude will have to be changed.

poptop poptop 11:14 pm 08 Nov 08

I agree it would make more sense to do something to minimise the packaging that goes around the thing you buy – the volume of some of it it ridiculous!

The point of the transport cost information is to demonstrate that paper bags are not an environmental slam-dunk.

After reading the article, I put my paper bags and stuff through my compost if it is too irky to recycle.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy 11:08 pm 08 Nov 08

So charge for the paper bags, and let people put them in the recycling! As for the cost of getting them to the shop, what about the rest of the things in the shop?!?! How much extra transport, relative to the existing logistical operation of running a shop, are we really talking about? Three fifths of stuff all would be my guess.

poptop poptop 11:02 pm 08 Nov 08

Paper bags aren’t particularly environmentally sound and can apparently be worse in some circumstances. Some quotes from The Environmental Literacy Council:

Both paper and plastic bags have to be transported to stores, which requires energy and creates emissions. In this comparison, plastic is preferable because plastic bags are lighter in weight and more compact than paper bags. It would take approximately seven trucks to transport the same number of paper bags as can be transported by a single truck full of plastic bags.

… plastic bags are more environmentally benign than paper, as they require less space; paper occupies approximately half of overall landfill volume.

Although plastics do not biodegrade, modern landfills are designed in such a way that nothing biodegrades, because the waste is isolated from air and water in order to prevent groundwater contamination and air pollution. As manufacturers have continued to make their plastic packaging thinner and lighter to save materials, the percentage of landfill volume taken up by plastics has remained steady since 1970 even as plastics have become more widely used.

So it appears the only correct answer is to use reuseable bags or none at all.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy 10:34 pm 08 Nov 08

I don’t see why we can’t use plain paper bags. The economics can be figured out. It wouldn’t be hard to charge a flat rate per bag, which would be waived if you chose not to take one.

I suspect there are many people who think like me on this: don’t slug me 10c and let me keep using a plastic bag, because I really don’t care about the 10c. Find a way to motivate me to use an alternative.

RuffnReady RuffnReady 10:07 pm 08 Nov 08

Back in 2005, Australia used about 4 billion plastic bags per annum – yes, 4 BILLION (actually, 3.92 billion according to govt figures). Then the green bags became popular. We’re, 3 years later now using about 5 billion a year (according to Planet Ark).

Plastic bags should simply be banned. All disposable bags, and other packaging for that matter, should be made from recycled materials, not non-renewable OIL. However, no government has the balls to stand up to industry and make it happen.

And things remain the same.

Dave F Dave F 8:04 pm 08 Nov 08

Will the levy include the plastic bags supermarkets provide to put your fruit and vegetables in or will they start providing paper bags again? I would have thought this would be a good use for recycled paper.

I have never understood why these plastic bags appear to be considered less evil than the larger plastic bags they put your groceries in which can be re-used as bin liners.

GottaLoveCanberra GottaLoveCanberra 6:40 pm 08 Nov 08

Complaining about the cost of paper bags being prohibitive?! But does the enviroment have a cost!


Yet another useless Government initiative to appear to most that they are actually doing something. How about we teach people the appropriate uses for plastic bags and when it is and isn’t a good idea to get them (eg; one item at the checkout, though it does depend on the itme).

But noooo that takes time (eg: longer than a particular Government would be around and thus unable to claim credit) and a lot more effort then just slapping on a levy, smiling and saying “look people, we do good!”

PS: Johnboy, I tried closing my first sentence with a proper html sarcasm tag ala internetz and it actually recognised it?

Hzbkt Hzbkt 6:37 pm 08 Nov 08

I considered the water point and I concede I of course have no ultimate solution (recycling household water is an idea off the top of my head but then there are arguements about cleanliness and cost). My point is that there is an infuriating mindset of not making any effort because it’s painful or inconvenient or not saving the whole environment in one go. Also, I did not try to imply that old people are selfish and thankfully out of the way soon – rather, that everyone is responsible (young people often even more so) but I hope that progress can be made in attitudes, as we have seen in other areas in recent history.

monomania monomania 6:08 pm 08 Nov 08

Hzbkt wants us to clean out our bins once a week. Inside bin 2 or 3 times and wheely bin once every week. Now that’s a waste of water and we can’t have that. Don’t do it and things start to smell like the rubbish tip, the one that’s generating methane gas being used to produce electricity. Only archaelogists are going to dig that up. So I use shopping bags. I will not use less plastic but would prefer to use free biodegradable ones if the supermarkets supply them. But don’t worry Hzbkt, old selfish people like me will be dead soon, by compulsory euthanasia to get rid of obstructionist foggies a likely possibility. More biofuel

Hzbkt Hzbkt 4:51 pm 08 Nov 08

I agree with most that reducing/eradicating plastic bags is a rather meaningless exercise in itself, however, most people can acknowledge that at some point in the futur we will need to have a society free of waste if we want any society at all. So plastic bags is an important first step because it will introduce the idea of sacrifice for the environment (and future generations), which is so impossible for the vast majority of people to comprehend.

I am utterly astounded by the selfishness of people worried they will have to buy bin liners, for example. How about thinking outside the square and coming up with ways to avoid the biner liner altogether? Newspaper was suggested above – or what’s wrong with not using one at all and just cleaning out the bin every week or so. Inconvenient? Sure – but worth it surely if it leads to momentum towards other waste reduction initiatives, and therefore a better life for the hundreds of billions of people who have to inhabit this planet after you.

I’m 17 years old and I really hope to see a huge shift in attitudes on this front over my lifetime. Without trying to be overly offensive, what I’m seeing at the moment is beyond shocking.

astrojax astrojax 4:42 pm 08 Nov 08

Work doesn’t empty the bins at peoples desk

apart from the missing apostrophe [; )] you still have a bin at each desk?? what about co-mingled waste stations, with recycling/compost/hard waste facilities in the shared areas/kitchens??

and a wiser man than that, holier, said: remember, wherever you go, there you are…

Holierthanthou Holierthanthou 1:39 pm 08 Nov 08

Now here’s a question, will this include take-away?

John Lennon once said ‘A man with a handhul of takeaways is either very hungry, or knows someone that’s very hungry.’

True, but a wiser man said:

“A man with a handful of takeaways has got warm grease running up both sleeves”

Thumper Thumper 1:19 pm 08 Nov 08

Yeah sepi, I realise that. But if we are serious about getting rid of plastic bags then card/ paper is the smart alternative.

sepi sepi 1:07 pm 08 Nov 08

Thumper paper bags probably cost more than 10c a piece.

We looked at the best alternative for a shop I was involved with, and paper was just too expensive. We ended up with biodegradable plastic bags. But they only degrade if left out in the sun, so it doesn’t work for landfill.

CT today says a 79% reduction in plastic bags was achieved in areas of Victoria that tried a levy. It will be so interesting to see how it goes in Canberra.

Normally I worry how things will affect the poor – eg increasing water prices, but I really don’t think 10c for a plastic bag is going to send anyone broke – they can always use a string bag or something instead. And in the olden days (like the 70s), people used to wrap their rubbish up in newspaper.

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