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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Bag It

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About six weeks ago I decided to give up plastic bags. In the scheme of things it’s a pretty small concession to make so your kids have a shot at a future. You’d have to be a lazy heartless  prick  not to make even that tiny bit of effort to effect even the tiniest change. Maybe that’s a few less turtles that will die plastic bag-related deaths.

I have always been resistant to change. I am standing at the counter with my groceries and there is a perfectly good plastic bag right there. It’s hard not to use it. Especially when I’ve left my ‘reusable’ bags in the boot of the car and I’d have to walk 100 metres. Or I could use a box. But they have pointy edges and give me the shits carrying them to the car.

I like plastic bags because they are convenient. That’s a terrible omission.  I guess breathing and being able to digest your food was also ‘convenient’ to the poor turtles prior to their plastic ingestion. As they lie dying on the beach I wonder if they are thinking ‘If only Mandy Nolan had used a box.’

I didn’t like to think about that. I guess if they used graphic ocean-life deaths at the supermarket counter in the same way they used dying babies, lung cancer and rotting toes to put people off their ciggies, more people might make an effort to bring their own bag. That’s as simple as change can ever be. Self responsibility. You bring your own bag.  Why couldn’t I do that? And then I told myself, What is the point? The world is stuffed. What difference can I make?

This feeling of futility allows me to be a carbon-munching polluter because real change has to happen at the top. They need to ban plastic bags. When they no longer exist then we will have effected real change, so until then I will keep using them. This still didn’t sit well with me. So I made a committed effort to stop.

I had to make a STOP USING PLASTIC BAGS plan. If you don’t have a plan you will fail. It’s like a plastic bag diet. Firstly I had to identify what stopped me from not using plastic bags. I have bought heaps of reusable bags but I keep them in the car. And that’s where they stay. So I bought six lightweight nylon bags and popped them in my handbag. I have used them on every shopping trip. I calculated that I use a minimum of 4-5 plastic bags per day. Which is around 30 bags a week. Over a six week period I have not used 180 bags. Even for someone convinced that her impact was going to be inconsequential, I have to admit I was impressed with my environmental audit. Four bags doesn’t feel like much of a difference, but 180 bags does. I have become pretty smug about the whole thing. It feels good to be environmentally responsible – especially when the person in front of you isn’t. You get to make them feel like heartless turtle killers.

In case you are thinking that I have become some anti-plastic puritan, then let me assure you that I haven’t. I still use bin liners, glad wrap and tupperware. There is only so much change one western woman can implement in a year. But the bag thing is a no brainer.  It’s something EVERYONE could do. What shocks me is how easy it has been.

Once I broke my mindless plastic bag habit and got used to pulling out my reusables as part of my shopping routine, it became easy. There were a few times when I zoned out and forgot and the cashier packed my groceries in plastic bags and then I remembered that I’m being environmentally responsible and I had to tell them I needed to repack into MY bags.

I definitely gave them the shits, but I assured myself that it was okay to inconvenience them a little bit because I was putting back into the big future bank that they are also stakeholders in. Now using MY bags is second nature. In fact I think I have created a new ‘eco-friendly non plastic bag’ using pathway in my brain that wasn’t there before. Oh dear, should I also be worrying about neuro-plasticity?

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  1. Go Mandy
    A few years ago everyone around Lennox Head started to do away with plastic bags. It got intense local publicity, people were making fabric bags out of old sarongs, leftover curtains, grandma’s long-discarded aprons and even the CWA got into it. The idea caught on and was a fun thing as well as environmentally responsible, and only two of the village shops didn’t join the push.
    Then after less than 12 months it just petered out. Perhaps the grocery check-out process was too much of an ingrained convenience thing – both shop staff and customers couldn’t kick the plastic habit.
    So let’s reinvigorate the no plastic thing. Following Mandy’s inspiration we can say no and bring our own bags.
    Lead on Mandy!


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