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By the end of May, Australia's two leading supermarkets and some major retailers will be putting a stop to handing out single-use, lightweight plastic bags. A move that will prevent billions of bags from finding their way into landfill or oceans.
From the extensive research and reports to the constant stream of social media posts, there is little left to deny of the devastating impact plastic pollution is having on our environment and marine wildlife. It is estimated that tens of millions of plastic bags end up in Australia's waste streams every year and are frequently ingested by wildlife mistaking it for edible food - According to CSIRO research, 30% of the world’s turtles and 90% of seabird species have now ingested some form of plastic debris, with the most serious offender being the ever convenient plastic bag.
Clean Up Australia’s latest estimation is that 50 million single-use plastic bags end up in our waterways and ocean - a devastating reality we were confronted with recently when a whale in Thailand washed ashore with more than 80 plastic bags (total weight exceeding 8kg) found to have been swallowed. Because of these reportings and backing by influential publications such as the National Geographic’s June edition and the ABC TV show The War on Waste, the zero-waste movement has gained a noticeable amount of traction.
In Australia, we use approximately 4 billion plastic bags every year. When broken down, that equates to an unfathomable 10 million bags each day. Thankfully, as of next Sunday (July 1), free single-use plastic bags will no longer be available from both Coles and Woolworths (Woolworths brought their date forward to 20th June ) as both retailers enforce a nationwide ban on lightweight, single-use plastic bags across all stores. This move has been reinforced by all state governments (except NSW) who have already, or will pass legislation banning the ban statewide. While supportive of the major supermarket changes, the NSW state government is the only state left to enforce the ban. It is mind boggling as while Coles and Woolworths account for half of the plastic bags used in NSW, this still leaves a staggering 30 million plastic bags in circulation according to NSW Labor Opposition Leader Luke Foley.
We couldn’t be more supportive of the actions these major retailers are taking, as any step towards minimising waste is a win for us all by promoting the cause nationwide and educating their enormous customer base behind the reasons for the changes and the impact this will have on our environment. As always, more can still be done and further actions are needed but it’s undeniable that every small change is getting us one step closer to eliminating single-use plastic and improving the health and wellbeing of our planet.
As a guide, we’ve broken down the changes and actions our leading retailers are enforcing and the easy switches you can make in an effort to choose our planet over plastic.
WHAT’S BANNED -
Banned plastic bags: Lightweight plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns in thickness along with degradable and biodegradable lightweight plastic shopping bags.
Not banned: Bags such as garbage bags, bin liners, bags for food such as fruit and vegetables, nappy bags, will not be banned.
Woolworths, Big W and liquor chains BWS, Dan Murphy’s and Cellarmasters will offer reusable bags in-store and online. This includes a 15-cent thick plastic bag, a 99-cent ‘foldable bag’ and a $2.49 ‘chiller bag’, all made from at least 80% recycled plastic and designed to be reused.
Any money made from the sale of the Bag for good™ in FY19, will fund the Woolworths Junior Landcare grants program, encouraging young Australians to play an active role in reducing their environmental impact.
Online orders will be packed into reusable bags, or, offer a 'crate to bench' ($3.50 per order) delivery service where orders will be packed directly into crates and then unpacked by the delivery driver.
All single-use plastic bags can be recycled through the REDcycle soft plastics bins that will be available in all Woolworths Supermarkets by 30 June. Plastics recycled through this program are turned into things like furniture.
Our opinion: Please avoid buying the thicker 15c plastic bag. It is still harmful to the environment and dangerous for our marine animals. Please remember to reuse your shopping bags and produce bags. For online orders please pick the 'Crate to Bench service for $3.50' or choose Coles where the Crate to Bench service is free! And this is great news about Redcycle so use their soft plastic bins at store. Update: we have heard many customers tell us the crate to bench servie isn't really working and they are still getting plastic bags so it looks like there are process problems.
Coles will also offer 15-cent bags, as well as multi-use bags from $1, made from 80 per cent recycled material and are recyclable through the RED cycle bins at Coles stores.
For online shoppers, Coles offers free delivery in crates or 15-cent bags.
From June 5, Coles range of reusable bags will include bags designed by Australian schoolchildren during their bag design competition. Each of these bags will support one of the following community organisations - SecondBite, Guide Dogs, Little Athletics and Clean Up Australia.
Our Opinion: Crate to Bench is great for online shoppers.
A firm favourite here at F&F (Suzy Spoon’s delectable vegan delights anyone?!), Harris Farm was the was first major retailer in Australia to stop offering single-use plastic bags at their checkouts and instead continues to encourage customers to bring their own bag or take a recycled box from the store.
Earlier this year, Harris Farm partnered with Clean Up Australia and launched a campaign aimed to reduce the use of single-use, lightweight plastic bags across their stores. Their #BanTheBag campaign encouraged shoppers to ‘Say No’ to plastic bags at the checkout by donating five cents for every participating sale. Their campaign continues to call on the NSW Government for a statewide ban.
Our Opinion: Harris Farms are the ones to beat. They are all about reducing and reusing plus they are huge advocates of supporting local and they have a great vegan range.
German supermarket chain Aldi, which opened in Australia in 2001, has never provided single-use plastic bags at the checkout and sells multi-use bags for 15 cents and fabric bags for 99 cents.
Our Opinion: Good job Aldi; now we'd love you to look at the plastic in your store in terms of packaging.
At F&F we strongly encourage reusing shopping bags and produce bags to minimise waste. Plus if you see fruit and veg in plastic buy loose or vote with your feet and buy fruit and veg from somewhere that is responsible with their packaging. Consumers have the power!