The effects of plastic bags on turtles

We have saved 1.5 billion plastic bags from landfill

In just three months, Australians' plastic bag use has dropped by 80 per cent, which means 1.5 billion fewer bags to go to landfill.

The drop in plastic use has come since supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths stopped giving away single-use bags earlier this year.

Although some shoppers initially struggled to deal with the change, many have applauded the supermarket companies for leading an environmental change.

Some customers found the change to their shopping routine difficult, so Woolworths handed out free reusable bags for a short time. Picture: AAP
Some customers found the change to their shopping routine difficult, so Woolworths handed out free reusable bags for a short time. Picture: AAP

The National Retail* Association (NRA), which speaks on behalf of Australian shop owners, said that the 80 per cent drop in plastic bag use is just the beginning.

"Indeed, some retailers are reporting reduction rates as high as 90 per cent," NRA's David Stout told news agency AAP.

A shopper carrying a reusable plastic bag at a Coles store in July. Picture: AAP
A shopper carrying a reusable plastic bag at a Coles store in July. Picture: AAP

Mr Stout said the ban was a "brave" move from the major supermarkets and it's paving the way for smaller businesses, who typically* can't afford to risk upsetting their customers, to follow.

"They're (supermarkets) obviously seen as the product stewards* so a lot of people will come back to them," Mr Stout said.

A reusable bag from Woolworths, which stopped providing single-use plastic bags in NSW, Qld, Victoria and WA on June 20. Picture: AAP
A reusable bag from Woolworths, which stopped providing single-use plastic bags in NSW, Qld, Victoria and WA on June 20. Picture: AAP

"Obviously the best thing for smaller businesses is to either engineer* out the bag completely or have the customer pay," he said. "They should be able to consider that strategy without fear of backlash*."

Mr Stout said that everyone delivering things in a package needs to take responsibility for what they deliver it in.

"I think there's going to be a lot more pressure on all of us to be more aware of what we consume," he told AAP.

Landfill with blue sky and cumulus clouds, garbage dump in the nature from istock
Landfill with blue sky and cumulus clouds, garbage dump in the nature from istock

NSW is the only state or territory in the country without at least a commitment* to ban single-use bags (beyond Coles, Woolworths and other shops' own bans), with Victoria promising to phase them out in 2019.

Mr Stout said everyone will benefit from continued reduction in single-use plastic packaging.

"For business, for the environment, for the consumer and of course even for councils which have to work to remove these things from landfills, there's a multitude* of benefits on a whole to doing this."

A big pile of landfill, all wrapped up in single-use plastic bags. Although Australians are using less single-use plastic, there’s still plenty more we can do. Picture: iStock
A big pile of landfill, all wrapped up in single-use plastic bags. Although Australians are using less single-use plastic, there’s still plenty more we can do. Picture: iStock

He is hopeful major retailers will continue to lead the charge towards a more sustainable industry and move to ban other single-use packaging options.

Target and Kmart have committed to stop providing single-use bags by 2019.


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