Little Black cormorant, a couple of gulls and a plastic bag at Fatima Island in the Cooks River. Look and you will see plastic bags caught in the branches of the mangroves all along the length of the river.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan stated that WA will ban single-use plastic bags from 1st July 2018.   The war against plastic bags is catching with Western Australia joining the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania & the Australian Capital Territory who have all decided to make their state & territory single-use plastic bag free.

Clean Up Australia says,

  • “It is estimated worldwide that 1 trillion bags are used and discarded every year.
  • Australians use an estimated 5 billion plastic bags a year, that’s over 20 million new bags being used every day. 
  • An estimated 3.76 billion bags or 20,700 tonnes of plastic are disposed of in landfill sites throughout Australia every year.
  • Australians dump 7,150 recyclable plastic bags into landfills every minute or 429,000 bags every hour.
  • It is estimated that around 50 million bags enter the Australian litter stream every year. Unless they are collected, they remain in the environment and accumulate at a staggering rate. If these 50 million plastic bags were made into a single plastic sheet, it would be big enough to cover the Melbourne CBD.”

Plastic bags are made from crude oil – a finite source.  To create enough plastic bags for humans to use over a 12-month period requires 100 million barrels of oil.

It is also estimated that it will take each plastic bag approximately 400-years to biodegrade, which is disgusting when you think of the 1 trillion bags that are used & discarded every year worldwide.

Plastic bags often end up as litter & enter our waterways & oceans.  Once there, they are mistaken for jelly fish by some seabirds & turtles who eat them, then suffer blocked gastrointestinal tracks & basically starve to death.

Birds often try to use the bags as nesting material.  If the bag gets caught around their beak, wings or legs, it can prevent them from eating, cause an infection, amputate their feet or toes killing them quickly or painfully slowly.

Plastic bags, like all plastic, breaks down into micro-particles & is eaten by birds, animals & fish, entering the food chain.  It is expected that there will be more plastic by weight in our oceans than fish by 2050.  This is a terrible legacy to be leaving future generations.

The environment needs us to dump plastic bag use, as do the wildlife & also for ourselves, as ingesting micro-plastics will have a negative impact on our health.

2017 research by the University of Ghent in Belgium “believe Europeans currently consume up to 11,000 pieces of plastic in their food each year & that 99 percent of them pass through the body, but the remaining 1 percent, which equates to about 60 particles, is absorbed into the body’s tissues and will accumulate over time.”  http://bit.ly/2jURaFc

A few years ago, I asked Marrickville Council whether they would consider banning plastic bags in the municipality & was told something along the lines that the issue had been considered, but it was felt it would not work because people would just go buy plastic bags from the supermarket.  However, the culture is changing & with whole states/territories across Australia having made the decision to ban single-use plastic bags, it will not be too long before we can expect NSW & the other states to follow their example.  I think we can realistically expect the Inner West Council to embrace this initiative now or very soon.  They could follow Western Australia with a July 2018 start.

There is already ground root aspiration to make the Dulwich HilI shopping strip plastic bag free with local volunteers busy making shopping bags for the Boomerang Bags initiative either at home or meeting at Reverse Garbage for monthly sew-a-thons.  It is highly commendable & I wish it would take off for all our local shopping strips & Marrickville Metro who gets through something like 24,000 bags every week.  Don’t quote me though.  It may be 24,000 bags every day.  You can see the signs about plastic bag usage on the pillars in the Metro car park.

Plastic bags can’t be recycled the usual way because the they jam machinery at recycling depots.  They can however be taken to the REDcycle collection bins at the supermarket for recycling into plastic signs & outdoor furniture.  However, if all the plastic bags were recycled this way, there would be excess of what is needed for signs & furniture, so better not to use them at all.

Ultimately I believe we will be forced to stop using single-use plastic bags, so we might as well embrace the alternatives before this happens.   Shopping bags are super easy to make & cheap to buy.  The hardest thing will be to remember to take them with us, but even that will become second nature in a very short while.

Advertisements