Australian’s at War [with plastic bags]

There’s a woman wheeling her trolley towards the supermarket checkout. She’s noticeably anxious, clenching and unclenching her fists as she assesses her groceries. Her eyes dart from the full trolley to the counter and widen at the realisation of what sin she is about to commit. She has forgotten her reusable shopping bags.

As an environmentalist, nothing pains me more than using single use plastic bags. The few plastic bags in my house haunt me of statistics we all know well:

  • Plastic bags are used for an average of 10 minutes and hang around in our environment for hundreds of years, reported by ABC Catalyst.
  • Plastic pollution kills an estimated 100 million marine animals each year, according to Sea Turtle Conservancy.
  • Micro-particles from plastic bags work their way through the marine food chain and onto consumer plates, as found by ABC Catalyst.

But considering Australian’s use 3.76 billion plastic bags each year, according to Clean Up Australia, it’s clear that not everyone is experiencing the same guilt that I do when using plastic bags.

So what is being done in the battle against plastic bags?

State Government:

State Governments in South Australia, the Northern Territory and ACT have already banned the use of single use plastic bags. Queensland and Western Australia have also implemented plans to ban plastic bags in 2018. Victoria and New South Wales State Governments are yet to take action against plastic bags.


After the ABC’s War on Waste documentary received an overwhelming response from viewers, other news organisations have since reported on plastic bags. The Project took one step further and collaborated with Clean Up Australia to create the ‘Ban the Bag’ campaign. This campaign called on the Victorian, NSW and WA State Governments to ban single use plastic bags. So far, the petition has gained 169,891 signatures. Victorian and NSW Premiers acknowledged the petition but did not ban the bag. However, people power successfully won over the WA Premier who has recently announced plans to ban plastic bags in 2018. You can sign the petition here.

Supermarket Giants:

Woolworths, closely followed by Coles, have unveiled plans to ban single use plastic bags in their stores within a year. Instead, thicker reusable plastic bags will be sold for 15c to shoppers who do not have their own bags. Many people have criticised this move because a version of plastic bags are still available to consumers. But this plan isn’t all bad because in 2003, Bunnings Australia announced that consumers used 80% less plastic bags after a 15c cost was introduced. Whilst this reduction is a great win for the environment, it is a little sad that people will use reusable bags to save 15c but not to save the turtles.

Feeling Motivated?

If your inner environmentalist is thirsty to make a bigger difference to the war on plastic bags, head over to Boomerang Bags. Communities who volunteer as part of this organisation sew reusable plastic bags and allow local consumers to use them when shopping and after use, return them to the shop. So far, this organisation has diverted 39,150kg of waste from landfill simply by sewing 130,500 bags.

Thanks to European Parliament for the use of their photo ‘Flying Rainbow’.