We have a waste problem in Tasmania, Australia and the World and we need to rethink the way we do things. Some materials are too expensive to recycle and should just be banned or have a mandatory price put on them to reduce the amount of that particular waste. For example, plastic bag recycling costs around $4572 per tonne and very few people take their bags to Coles for recycling, whereas kerbside recycling only costs $140 per tonne (source MRA Consulting see more).
The South Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Tasmania Governments have all passed legislation to get retailers to supply consumers with plastic bags three times thicker than bags used before the ban. You can see an overview of the bans here.
The ban in SA has been shown to be effective in reducing litter. What hasn’t yet been investigated is whether or not the amount of plastic has increased. Switching to bags three times the thickness in the hopes that people will consume less, is a leap of faith, so too is relying on businesses to charge for bags to provide the right cues for people to consume less.
Retailers are not required under the various pieces of legislation to charge for bags, and the experience in Tasmania shows that only Coles and Woolies charge for bags (and a handful of small retailers). Thanks to the environmental responsibility shown by Coles and Woolies in charging for bags, they have no doubt reduced the number of bags they distribute. What is not known is how much more plastic they and other retailers are now providing Australians in the form of plastic shopping bags.
Queensland has recently announced their intention to get retailers to provide plastic bags three times the thickness. Before they do so, we think they should ask Coles and Woolies for pre-ban, post-ban data. It would be a perverse impact indeed if all these Governments have introduced legislation and effectively increased the amount of plastic being consumed. Even if it does lead to less litter, the production of plastic is harmful to our environment and so too is burying plastic in landfill. We want less plastic not more.
In the meantime, are you able to avoid the generation of waste by buying less packaging and fewer things you don't need? Do you look for products that reuse waste material or are made using more environmentally friendly materials and practices?
Your dollar is a powerful tool for social and environmental change. Challenge yourself to avoid buying things you don't need or source products that reuse waste material or are made using more environmentally friendly materials and practices.
Shop wisely to reduce waste and save money.
Consider the gifts you give. Try giving presents of experiences (massage, film, dinner out, picnic on the beach, ice skating) rather than things.
Care for your baby with the earth in mind. Try not to use a lot of extra power, water, resources and unnecessary chemicals.
Waste hierarchy - Recognise, refuse, rethink, reduce, re-use, rot, recycle, run away from the problem