Just over 12 months ago I stopped using plastic bags. After seeing picture of the devastating impacts one billion-plus bags per day have on our environment.
It’s hard to use a plastic bag guilt free one you’ve seen one kill a turtle. Or choke a fish. Or wash up on beaches throughout Indonesia. Or know that it’s releasing toxic chemicals into the soil.
We eventually eat food infused with plastic. The plastic isn’t just in our environment, it’s in our bloodstream. The carry-bag carnage is a hideous reminder of our single-use society. There’s something nihilistic about a society that has so little regard for the future that it creates something that will only be used once.
The underpinning belief system is that we won’t be here much longer. And with that kind of attitude, we won’t. It’s depressing. A person can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the changes required with a sense that nothing you do will make a difference. But it does.
I decided that eliminating my plastic-bag use was one small action that I could do. I calculated that I was using at least 20 single-use plastic bags each week, so in a year I have not used 1,040 plastic bags. That’s a shitload of plastic. If 15 million people in Australia are regular shoppers and if they use 10 bags a week then thats 8.7 billion bags not ending up in the environment.
As of July this year single-use plastic bags will be banned nationwide. In the lead-up to the ban, a few of the major retailers such as Coles and Woolies have trialled the no-plastic-bags policy to monitor feedback from customers.
Woolies in Mullum is one of the stores that has attempted to go bag free. You’d think in a largely hippy town where we are supposed to embrace eco-friendly and sustainable values that we would have been right behind the initiative. Not entirely so.
Just the other day I stood behind some dude at the checkout who was losing his tiny mind. ‘What am I going to use as my bin liner now?’ he ranted at the 17-year-old attempting to serve him. He was really upset about it. I wonder how boring this dude’s life is to get that emotional about bin liners. I think of him at home carefully lining his bin with his single-use plastic bag, patting himself on the back for being such an environmental champion with his second use. He’s still yelling at the kid.
Here’s some advice for anyone who yells at kids with part-time jobs in retail. Get a life. Go and yell at the manager. Yell at the CEO. Don’t yell at the pimply faced kid with an anxiety disorder wearing the Fresh Food People name tag. And for god’s sake don’t yell about bin liners. If I were going to yell about anything in public it would be something that matters, such as human rights and world poverty or someone stealing my park. Not my right to free bin liners. That’s just sad.
How about this for an idea: don’t buy so much. If you don’t buy much then you don’t need many bags, especially if you are using your reusables. And if you don’t buy much, you use what you buy then hopefully you don’t need to throw much out.
I remember our bin when I was a kid. Call us filthy pigs but we didn’t use a bin liner. We just hosed it out after we emptied it. That’s how we made bin juice. Every couple of days I emptied the kitchen bin into the metal garbage bin outside. It would contain possibly a quarter of the rubbish my regular wheelie bin contains. We rarely filled it. We recycled all our bottles and we put paper in the garden. The chooks ate our food scraps. We weren’t environmentalists. We were poor country folk and we just didn’t consume much.
We never threw stuff away because we always had less than we needed in our cupboards, not more. We didn’t buy pre-packaged or processed foods because in the 1970s that sort of stuff wasn’t really available. People bought less, they ate less, they threw away less. Consequently they didn’t yell at people at the supermarket about bin liners.
So next time you see someone going nuts about single-use plastic as free bin liners, take one for the team, and give them a serve.