BAN THE BAG NSW
Last week the Greens & the Labor party presented bills to Parliament to ban single-use plastic bags here in NSW.
Bans already exist in Tasmania (2013), South Australia (2009), the Northern Territory (2011), and the ACT (2011); why is NSW slow to step up?
China, Kenya, India, Brazil, South Africa, & many other countries have banned them due to their extreme impact on the environment, thus strain on government finances to manage the cleanup.
The European Union has pledged to reduce plastic bags by 80% by 2019 through encouraging member states to ban or tax plastic bags, most of which are taking action. Italy has banned. Paris has banned. Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Scotland, and England all charge you for a bag.
The US is tied up in bed with the plastics industry. We see this as California's bag ban is still on a regrettable PAUSE, as it waits for the November vote to determine if it stays or goes. However, over 100 counties & municipalities have banned or taxed bags in the states and all four Hawaiian Islands have adopted bans.
In July 2015 Omnipoll revealed that 63% of Australians and 64% of NSW residents support a ban on single-use plastic bags in supermarkets and stores in NSW. 81% support the existing ban in South Australia, showing that public opinion increases once the ban is in place! Over 12,500 signatures have been gathered by Plastic Bag Free NSW and presented to the NSW government calling for a ban.
In defence of their snail's pace, Minister of Environment, Mark Speakman, made the point that the existing plastic bag bans in Australia make an exemption for biodegradable bags; which, (and I agree) is not a true solution for the environment. Biodegradable plastic bags take approximately 40 days to break down, but if they end up in the environment before then they pose the same threats as plastic bags. Absorbing harmful chemicals/toxins, choking or starving animals, clogging drains, etc.
The Labor's suggested ban is modeled after the 2011 ACT legislation. Retailers would be unable to provide single-use, lightweight polyurethane bags (35 microns or less). Retailers can charge for reusable bags. Produce bags, heavier plastic bags from clothing stores, biodegradable bags, paper bags, and bin liners are not included in this ban. Regrettably, the admittance of thicker, heavier plastic bags has moved many stores to distribute free thick plastic bags that have "reusable" printed on them. (Stay sharp, shoppers!!)
Not wanting to rush into a 'weak' ban on bags that allows thicker plastic bags or biodegradable bags to be distributed, they are still debating options.
Well, let's have our own debate.
Are you still using plastic bags? Would you be devastated if they got banned outright, or would you start to bring your own bag or use the cardboard fruit boxes at the stores? Heck, sometimes you can even use your shirt to carry all your fruits!
So as we wait for the law to determine what the masses do, let us--you, me, our friends, our family, our workplace, the people in front & behind us at checkout--do the best we can to reduce demand for the free plastic bags. If no one is taking them, stores will respond.
Yes, please, bring your own, but also please avoid all this “biodegradable plastic.” It’s just not good for the environment. We can do better.
- In NSW alone up to 61 million lightweight plastic bags are littered each year; the state has 2.1k kilometres of coastline and tens of thousands of kilometres of waterways.
- Plastic bags take decades to begin to degrade, in that time the material can absorb chemicals & toxins and also transports invasive species wherever the light-weight plastic travels.
- The plastic clogs drains and waterways, polluting the eco-systems and threatening animals who mistake them as food.
- If not properly disposed of, plastic kills up to 1 million sea birds, countless fish and 100,000 sea mammals each year. Once those animals decay, the plastic is released and spreads back into the environment causing further harm.
- A CSIRO survey of marine debris found that three quarters of all the rubbish along the Australian coast is plastic.
- Along the Australian coastline, the density of plastic ranges from a few thousand pieces of plastic per square kilometre to more than 40,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre.
- Plastic bags are made out of high density polyethylene derived from petrochemical sources. Just 8.7 plastic checkout bags contain enough embodied petroleum energy to drive a car 1 km. Throwing them away is a serious waste of non-renewable resources.
- In 2014 a rare Risso's Dolphin died after swallowing a plastic bag in the ocean off Sydney.
- Encourage NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman to support a comprehensive ban (firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 8574 6390).
- Phone or write to your local State MP and tell them you support a ban on lightweight plastic bags.
- Thank Bruce Notley-Smith for making a stand on this issue. We need advocates like him.