By Lauren Grimshaw
Each year, Australians use 3.92 billion plastic bags and an estimated 3.76 billion bags are disposed of in landfill sites throughout Australia. With the recent release of the ABC series War on Waste, these statistics have gained a great deal of attention. Within the last few months, enormous pressure from environmental groups and campaigners have been placed on, not only State governments but also supermarkets to issue a plastic bag ban and for consumers to change their ways. This resulted in our two leading supermarkets, Woolworths and Coles, making the announcement to phase out all single-use plastic bags over a 12-month period.
Is banning the plastic bag an inconvenience for shoppers? Woolworths stated they currently give out over 3.2 billion bags a year, does this mean shoppers actually want them? Will the ban create new problems? It has been seen in other cases, plastic bag bans can significantly increase the sales of other plastic alternatives such as bin liners. Banning plastic bags, just like most sustainability issues, are typically characterised by high complexity and uncertainty. The repercussions of these restrictions have a wide range of influencing factors and a number of different perspectives that must be taken into consideration.
I personally believe that shopper’s habits and behaviours need to change first before the full potential of a plastic bag ban be realised. Shopping has become such a routine activity for most of us and we don’t necessarily think of the impact of our habits. Breaking that cycle may be difficult, and taking reusable bags with you when shopping would need to become instinctive. However, for this to occur, supermarkets will need to implement strategies such as education programs and reminder incentives, to change consumer behaviour and help shoppers adapt.
About the writer: Lauren is an environmental management student spreading awareness, exploring ideas and creating change through her blogzine, Project 3 P. Project 3 P celebrates sustainable people, places and practices through features and photographs. From volunteers and environmental managers, to sustainable coffee shops and organic farms, or documentaries and community events, Lauren captures, writes about and shares it on her platform.