Wednesday 26 March 2008

The world is flat

The Australian Retailers Association thinks getting rid of plastic bags as “populist emotional rhetoric.”

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett aims to end the use of all plastic bags in shops by January 2009.
"Retailers will respond to any change in legislation, but Minister Garrett is supporting an increased burden on consumers, who are already struggling under interest rate rises and increased petrol prices," says ARA’s Executive Director Richard Evans.
Evans wanted retailers to be consulted before the decision was made. He also believes there is misinformation being spread about the environmental impacts of plastic bags.
They sight reporting in the The Australian Scientists trash plastic bag ban, where scientists and environmentalists have questioned the case against the use of plastic shopping bags as based on flawed science and misreporting.
The retailers body also mentions UK's The Times newspaper that says scientists that say plastic bags pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds.
“Retailers are concerned about environmental damage too, and while the ARA agrees more should be done to reduce plastic bag litter, it does not agree with legislation or increased taxes," Richard Evans says. "Ultimately the consumer will pay. This latest attack on plastic bags as a major environmental issue is overly emotive and needs to be looked at from an economic perspective."
Evans says that retailers have been leading on this issue for over six years and the phasing out is just more emotional rhetoric and populist politics. He is seeking a code of voluntary compliance.
The use of plastic bags in supermarkets has reduced by 45% between 2002 and 2005.
They say that returning to paper is also counter productive.
The Retailers Association says it's not about the availability of plastic bags, it is about litter management. They say that consumers need to take greater responsibility of how they reuse and dispose of plastic bags. "It’s a litter issue,” says Richard Evans.
So, what's the answer? Paper or Plastic? How about neither! Fellow blogger Joe Kennedy in Portland has been having this same debate in his neck of the woods. He said after bagging groceries during the summer he graduated from high school, he hated asking that question 50 times a day.. "Do you want a bag with this?"
He says that the answer is not as easy as "Paper good / Plastic bad" More and more these days, people are looking at much more than just the environmental impact of the single item, as paper decomposes faster than plastic. Kennedy says that the total costs of manufacturing, of the resources, transportation, as well as the handling and disposal costs are being added up. states that plastic bags in landfills decompose at similar rates to paper bags, take up less space in landfills, and plastic bags require less energy to both manufacture and recycle. SO they conclude that the selection is a choice between two evils.
Tasmania are looking at only allowing reusable bags by next year. The city of Athens, Greece now sells only reusable shopping bags. Ireland passed a tax or around 50c per bag a number of years ago, and within a month or two, usage was down 94%.
The three billion bags a day - 3,000,000,000 - that China manufacture will be banned by June. They use 37 million barrels of crude oil to keep the annual production. USA's Whole Foods will also phase out plastic bags by mid-year, offering paper made from 100% recycled.
So with this ban in Australia, it's not a bad thing to radically change the waste in our everyday shopping. Some retailers even tax bag consumers. If you bring your own bags, you may get a per-bag discount.
Once we address the plastic bag issue, it will be time for manufacturers to cease double-wrapping everything. It's got worse over the last year. Everything is 'hygienically wrapped' for our 'convenience and safety'.
Gosh when dad worked at the grocery store, it was bulk food and you simply scooped a a bag of sugar or flour etc. It was a time of waste not, want not. My pet hate is all this extra packaging on products. Even some brands of milk now have a "freshness seal" under the top. What the %*$# is that about? You can even find special stickers around the top of many cosmetics that say "tamper evident seal".
I know when I get home from the supermarket and unpackage everything, I nearly fill a rubbish bag with the packaging waste. I hope Mr Garrett will address this one next.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Back in 1971 (the "good" old days) when this little black piglet worked at Woolworths in Abbott Street, groceries were all packed in either big paper bags or boxes from the store-room. And Woolworths even supplied "packers" to do it for you! In those days many shopper would bring in their "string" bags as well.