When it comes to recycling, it seems that Australians are steadily rising off the proverbial couch of apathy. There remain, however, a number of issues that have seemingly fallen between the cushions.
Last year, more than 4 billion plastic bags were used in Australia. Roughly 85% of these ended up in landfill sites while millions of others were cast to the wind to live out their non-biodegradable afterlife on the ocean floor and in the stomachs of ocean fauna. Many Newington students and parents have been involved in Clean Up Australia day for several years. In 2014, the event falls on the 2nd of March, and organisers are predicting the collection of more than half a million plastic bags. Around the world, more than 1 trillion plastic bags produced are manufactured each year.
There have, of course, been a number of positive steps made in the last decade; one of the most effective was an Australian retailer program of reducing plastic bag use by 50%. It was successful in achieving this objective but when the program ended in 2006, bag use immediately increased by 17% within just 12 months. Since then, very little progress has been made. To see this, we only need look so far as an article from the Sydney Morning Herald titled: “Plastic bags join endangered list” (See link below). In it, Environment Reporter, Ben Cubby says “Peter Garrett [then environment minister] is likely to impose either a levy on each bag handed to shoppers, or to ban them outright within 12 months.” And we might be very happy to pat ourselves on the back, except for the slight complication that the article is from January 2008… more than 6 years ago. In that time, no such levy or ban has come any closer to being established.
Having said that, the push has not been quite so spectacularly becalmed across Bass Strait, with Tasmania having had a ban on plastic bags for nearly 6 months. South Australia took the plunge even before that. Further afield, Los Angeles, last month, enacted a citywide ban on the use of plastic bags in large retailers (with smaller retailers being given a transition period of 6 more months). Such action is undeniably possible.
Luckily, it is not the only route to success. Change can be just as effectively implemented without the need for new legislation. In fact, all it requires is a little bit of consideration on your part. Forget hedge funds, super and the stock market, a few dollars spent on several canvas bags is one of the best investments you could make. Turn your loose change, into real change. Sturdier transportation, less cluttered streets, less polluted oceans and another step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. The plastic bag has had its time, now is your chance to put it to rest.
And once you’ve done that, consider:
Clean Up Australia Day
When: 9-12am, Sunday March 2
Where: Meet outside Centenary Hall
Bring gloves and closed shoes, parents welcome.
The sadly out dated article: