Public Service Annoncement: Ban the Bag

by The Editor

Well here we are – finally today has banned lightweight plastic bags (32 microns or lighter) from retail outlets in Canberra. But not all types of plastic bags are getting binned. The heavier style of bag you might get at Myer or clothes shop are still allowed (we’re not exactly sure why), and of course the ‘green bags’ we’ve seen for the last few years are perfectly okay.

While you may be welcoming the change with open arms, there are a couple of things worth noting. Prohibition rarely works. The best thing is to coerce people into changing behaviour is generally through the hip pocket. Rather than banning bags, charging 20-50c for the privilege soon encourages people to recycle, and would perhaps be a strong enough change-lever to minimise the use of ALL plastic bags.

As we all know, the ideal substitute for the thin plastic bags disappearing today is undoubtedly the ‘green’ bag pictured above. According to the UK Government sponsored study Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags these have to be used 14 times before their environmental impact is less than that of a regular plastic bag. Worth noting is the impact of a cotton bag (which may be of choice of those who prefer underwear made from hemp). According to the same study, cotton bags need to be used 114 times before they can be justified on environmental grounds. Who would have thought?

So, there you go. While making the transition to the new regime there are two things to keep in mind:

  1. When you buy a reusable bag, make sure you do just that.
  2. Over the coming weeks, should you find yourself at the checkout with an armful of goodies and your reusable bag at home, don’t roll your eyes and moan at the poor checkout attendant. They’ve probably seen it a dozen times already that day so cough up for a green bag and look after your future and theirs.

Given this measure is coming into effect today, the first Tuesday in November, there another event sure to capture the imagination of the Australian public; certainly the Melbourne Cup is an event more concerned with excessive consumption rather than recycling. If you’re a Canberran lucky enough to be at Flemington today, do us all a favour and be sure not to bring one particular plastic bag back home with you.