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Goodbye thin plastic bags, hello thicker plastic bags used in exactly the same way

By johnboy 1 November 2011 97

The Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur is celebrating her puissance and the end of thin plastic bags in Canberra.

(Never mind that nearly every shop has just replaced them with thicker plastic bags, still used disposably. Total win for the environment there.)

“Plastic bags have been a recognised environmental issue for a long time. They are created from oil, they don’t break down in landfill, they can clog waterways, and cause hazards to wildlife,” Ms Le Couteur said today.

“Research on the full life cycle of shopping bag alternatives – accounting for things like water use, energy use, global warming and litter – shows that reusable shopping bags are significantly better for the environment than light weight plastic bags.

“The fact is: getting rid of plastic bags in the Territory will make a positive environmental contribution.

The Liberals Zed Seselja is in a less celebratory sort of mood:

“The benefits of the ban will no doubt be touted today, but we must keep an eye on reality.

“For example, the ban means people will be charged for heavy-duty plastic bags which are likely worse for the environment.

“In South Australia, bin liner sales have doubled the national average since free plastic shopping bags were banned more than two years ago.

“When asked whether shopping bags were an environmental issue, our own local Environmental Protection Agency responded they ‘cannot say it has been one of any great significance.’

“Britain’s Environmental Agency found that shoppers would have to use the same cotton bag every working day for a year to have a lesser impact than a lightweight plastic bag.

“The Productivity Commission found that ‘based on the evidence available to the Commission, it appears that the Australian, State and Territory Governments do not have a sound case for proceeding with their proposed phase out of plastic retail carry bags.’

“Yet despite these facts, the ban will be met with the severest of penalties. For example, shopkeepers who don’t charge for bags can be fined $27,500 – as big a criminal offence as selling alcohol to a minor or taking a minor to a brothel.

“This illogical ban goes against evidence and will inconvenience customers and businesses,” Mr Seselja concluded.

What’s Your opinion?


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Goodbye thin plastic bags, hello thicker plastic bags used in exactly the same way
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moneypenny2612 3:55 pm 12 Nov 11

Krats – you missed a spot. Try harder next time.

krats said :

Before Every One Jumps On The Plastic Wagon I Did send An Email Asking Why… !! No There Has No Response To Date!! And No It Was Not A Letter Of Demand To Stop…

2604 1:58 pm 12 Nov 11

Jethro, stop making sense and using logic to make your arguments.

We all know that in this debate (as in all debates about initiatives furthering a “green” agenda), intentions are an acceptable substitute for results as far as those on the left are concerned. Whether the initiative actually works is just an afterthought, and one which is readily dismissed if it won’t work.

Jethro 10:49 am 12 Nov 11

dpm said :

However, re the environomental debate comparing bags, i’m sure paper is probably more (environmentally) costly to produce and transport, but didn’t this whole argument about plastic bags relate to waste and litter (e.g into waterways)? That seems to be where paper is not as bad a plastic, from my understanding…. Otherwise, why else would they have started looking into biodegradeable ones??

Well the litter excuse is another furphy. In Australia less than 1% of plastic bags end up as litter. Most end up in landfill, often after being reused as garbage bags. There is the argument that we should have biodegradable bags going into landfill instead, but I don’t get that one at all. Landfill is landfill. It’s going to be disgusting whether or not it has some plastic shopping bags in there. Plastic bags can be recycled, although currently our yellow bins do not provide for this option. They have/had recycling bins at the supermarkets. Perhaps encouraging the better use of these bins would have been a better starting point.

Getting back to the litter argument, plastic bags make up a tiny percentage of total litter found. It would be better to work on overall litter reduction strategies, rather than target one tiny part of that litter. Cigarette butts, for example, are far more commonly found as litter, and these release toxic chemicals into soil and waterways. Other plastics, such as drink bottles are also far more common types of litter. These make their way through waterways and into the ocean, where they degrade into tiny polymers the size of plankton and enter the food chain. Abrasive cleaners, face scrubs, etc often use tiny plastic beads to create their abrasiveness. These are almost guaranteed to enter our waterways, where they remain. Why aren’t the use of plastics in these products being banned? TAMS appears to have a policy of not providing bins in public parks. I assume they hope people will take their trash home with them. My observations have been that a good percentage of Canberrans decide to simply leave their rubbish in the parks. Why not focus more on catching and fining people for littering. A solid campaign against littering would surely be more successful at reducing litter than banning an item that usually doesn’t end up as litter.

As I said in an earlier post, I consider myself an environmentalist. I despise litterers. I want us to have the most environmentally friendly policies available. But banning plastic shopping bags is counter productive. It has simply led to the increased consumption of thick plastic bags and the increased purchasing of thin plastic bags. It puts people offside and turns them against the environmental movement and it ignores other things that actually are an issue.

dpm 9:25 am 12 Nov 11

Jethro said :

dpm said :

Hmmm, maybe they should go back to the days of old paper shopping bags! They were great!

This comment proves our point. Paper bags are more environmentally destructive than plastic. People like them because ‘plastic is bad’.

The majority of studies have concluded that paper bags have a greater environmental impact than plastic.

Most will argue that the reusable canvas ‘green’ bags are best. However, they need to be used a LOT. (about 500 times) to be a net environmental benefit. I doubt anyone has ever had a green bag last that long before it got lost/ruined.

(I was actually being sarcastic about paper bags. Not sure if you have ever used them but I thought they were a pain as you had to pick them up from the bottom because they had no handles, and anything more than a few cans would tear them and let everything pour out!)

However, re the environomental debate comparing bags, i’m sure paper is probably more (environmentally) costly to produce and transport, but didn’t this whole argument about plastic bags relate to waste and litter (e.g into waterways)? That seems to be where paper is not as bad a plastic, from my understanding…. Otherwise, why else would they have started looking into biodegradeable ones??

kakosi 11:29 pm 11 Nov 11

Watson said :

4 days in and I have already used up the last thin shopping bags I had left and will now have to buy bags to clean the cat litter tray and as bin liners. My only consolation is that the bought bags are less likely to have holes in them. I cannot see the benefit for the environment though.

Also, biodegradable bags are not a very good environmental solution either due to the deforestation to make way for the plantations to grow the plants used to make them. It is apparently the reason why most native forests on Madagascar were slashed down in the last decade. So the environmentally conscious Europeans could have their feel-good eco-bags.

Crap, there’s always a downside.

Jethro 9:40 pm 11 Nov 11

dpm said :

Hmmm, maybe they should go back to the days of old paper shopping bags! They were great!

This comment proves our point. Paper bags are more environmentally destructive than plastic. People like them because ‘plastic is bad’.

The majority of studies have concluded that paper bags have a greater environmental impact than plastic.

Most will argue that the reusable canvas ‘green’ bags are best. However, they need to be used a LOT. (about 500 times) to be a net environmental benefit. I doubt anyone has ever had a green bag last that long before it got lost/ruined.

dpm 5:46 pm 11 Nov 11

Watson said :

NancyNobody said :

No free bin liners – wow, this is totally a first world problem…

The point is that instead of reusing the thin supermarket bags, people are now using the same amount of thicker bought bags. So what does the legislation actually do for the environment? Ill-thought-out token legislation like this does more harm than good as it ruins the credibility of those who are trying to make some real changes to help the environment.

If I thought it would make a difference, I’d gladly put up with the inconvenience. But because it’s clear that it doesn’t it annoys me too.

Once again, being a devil’s advocate, I’m really not sure it can be dismissed without it being tried. Like any change, we need to see some sort of before/after eval data really. People dismissing it as not working before its been tried seems odd to me.
You may say it hasn’t worked in places like SA, but I think we all know ACT has a completely different demographic to the rest of Aus. So you can’t compare us to other places and assume the same outcome.
And like all research, a few one-off ‘case studies’ (e.g. some people on RA saying they are inconvenienced by having to bring their own bags) are not the top of the tree for solid evidence… We have the ‘complainers’ bias in effect here, in responses! 🙂
Hmmm, maybe they should go back to the days of old paper shopping bags! They were great!

Watson 4:14 pm 11 Nov 11

NancyNobody said :

No free bin liners – wow, this is totally a first world problem…

The point is that instead of reusing the thin supermarket bags, people are now using the same amount of thicker bought bags. So what does the legislation actually do for the environment? Ill-thought-out token legislation like this does more harm than good as it ruins the credibility of those who are trying to make some real changes to help the environment.

If I thought it would make a difference, I’d gladly put up with the inconvenience. But because it’s clear that it doesn’t it annoys me too.

NancyNobody 3:52 pm 11 Nov 11

No free bin liners – wow, this is totally a first world problem…

Henry82 2:39 pm 11 Nov 11

sarahsarah said :

http://i.imgur.com/YARGb.jpg

haha 🙂 nice post

sarahsarah 2:18 pm 11 Nov 11

Someone sent me this today in an email – I thought it was relevant to the interests of this thread:

http://i.imgur.com/YARGb.jpg

Sorry if you’ve already seen it!

Jethro 7:56 pm 10 Nov 11

Bramina said :

This has to be a great example of a failed government policy – forcing consumers to pay more while increasing the undesirable behaviour (all for nothing because the behaviour isn’t harmful anyway).

I just don’t think it is possible to fail in any more ways.

Indeed.
I would consider myself an environmentalist, but this is poor policy. For example, pretty much every takeaway type shop I have visited since the ban has simply changed to thicker plastic bags.

A quick peek at the checkouts at Coles or Woolies suggests that a good percentage of people have decided to add an extra dollar or so to their shopping each week and buy the thicker plastic bags on sale (it’s been almost 2 weeks now, so you would assume that most people would be in a position to be reusing these bags instead of buying new ones.)

The heavy duty ‘green’ bags need to be reused a hell of a lot (about a year and a half of heavy usage) to actually have a positive environmental impact. Most people will end up losing/destroying them well before they have achieved a net benefit for the environment.

As has been mentioned before, the thin plastic bags were generally reused. People are now buying plastic bags to cover these uses.

This is nothing but a feel good exercise that is having the opposite effects of its intentions.

cranky 7:37 pm 10 Nov 11

Having just carried a small shop home in a motley collection of bags, the Greens had better realise that each similar occasion simply reminds of the stupid bloody futility of this legislation.

I hope many remember this nonsense at the next election.

Henry82 7:06 pm 10 Nov 11

shadow boxer said :

Big W demand[ed] a receipt for the bag inside the bag

Bagception :/

Bramina 6:48 pm 10 Nov 11

This has to be a great example of a failed government policy – forcing consumers to pay more while increasing the undesirable behaviour (all for nothing because the behaviour isn’t harmful anyway).

I just don’t think it is possible to fail in any more ways.

chilli 6:08 pm 10 Nov 11

arescarti42 said :

I think I probably agree with Zed on this one.

Sure, disposable plastic bags are a horrible pollution issue in developing countries, but this is not my observation in Canberra. I’m sure I’ve read before that a majority of disposable plastic bags are used as bin liners anyway, and the ones that don’t can be recycled.

+1

shadow boxer 9:00 am 10 Nov 11

I had to laugh at my wife who went in to Big W with her new re-usable bags in her hand bag only to have the security staff in Big W demand a receipt for the bag inside the bag as they sold them in the shop.

It took her a while to convince them she bought them the week before.

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