Comment: Bag ban may be the only way to break our addiction to plastic

We're poised at a rare moment in Australian environmental history, as our proud state lags behind the Northern Territory, Queensland and that large mass in the west, on plastic bag pollution. 

When Queensland and Dubyaway enact plastic bag bans on July 1, the Rum Corps state will be alone in allowing the unfettered flow of plastic from the store, via the car and the house, to the landfill or the sea. 

Environmentalists have done well to push this cause. 

What seemed recently like a greenie's dream is now a reality in the NT - where they mine uranium in the middle of Kakadu - and in Queensland - where they clear native bush almost as fast as you can say "coal-port-on-the-Great-Barrier-Reef". 

In NSW, we are waiting for big retailers to act in the way the see fit, as seems to be our style. 

In the meantime a large chunk of the nation's shoppers still get easy access to a steady supply of bags without having to give it any thought.

Why ban lightweight carry bags, while keeping the thin bags in fresh produce, and selling slightly thicker plastic bags for 15c? 

Do we really need plastic bags to separate apples from oranges anyway? 

And I suspect we are able to slice our own mushrooms instead of buying them pre-sliced in foam and plastic at twice the price. 

Of course a ban isn't the only way to reduce bags' impact on marine life - but it will take a little thought. 

We could expand Clean Up Australia to a monthly event. Or weekly. 

Or just do it every time you go to the beach because why not. 

Perhaps if supermarkets were serious about waste, they would have trained staff to not waste bags on single items. 

It's not hard to take your own bag to the store. But we're not doing it, despite being asked nicely a few hundred times.

Nobody's perfect, and habits are hard to break. And if we'd been able to manage this ourselves, there wouldn't be a need for a ban.

  • Ben Langford