Gaining Momentum: how #banthebag is fighting our obsession with single-use plastics

May 24, 2017

Here at Eco Food Wrap, we are really passionate about reducing single-use plastics and this business was born out of a desire to make an impact on our daily use of plastic by tackling the problem of cling wrap and plastic food storage bags in our homes.  It doesn’t end there though! EFW HQ is our own off-grid sustainable property (and family home) and when you purchase Eco Food Wraps you know they differ from other food storage alternatives in that they are produced in a home where the electricity, water and raw materials are sustainable, recycled and have the lowest-possible impact on our environment.

 

This week, we’ve been seeing a real surge in the fight against single-use plastics across social media, the news and even on television, with Craig Rucassel’s War on Waste program doing that little bit extra to educate the greater public on living waste-free. Not only does Craig present an informative show on the data around Australia’s love-affair with plastic and waste- he also meets companies head on and challenges them to make changes, or in the very least, answer for their environmental sins.

 

(Source: The War on Waste ABC, Youtube: https://youtu.be/WeHPwyfOuZo)

 

Last week, Rucassel tackled food waste, contacting the bigger food chains in an attempt to question their ridiculous food standards that see bananas thrown out for being too long or short, the wrong colour, shape- you name it.  We watched on in horror as perfectly edible tonnes of fruit were discarded and dumped in landfill to decompose anaerobically (see our blog Joining the Compost Revolution for more on that mouthful!).

 

 

This week, Craig looks at plastic and our oceans, and how we can stop the unforgivable rates at which we use packaging and most of all- plastic shopping bags. You know how it goes- you forget your eco bags and reusable string produce bags at home or in the car- so you think, “I’ll just take a few bags from the supermarket” and try to ignore the rising shame. Fast-forward to a few weeks later and most people will admit they have a dedicated ‘plastic bag drawer’ that seems to grow more than it seems to diminish! Sure this happens to a lot of people- but it’s one of those small behaviours we need to think about changing, and the bigger chains are taking the feedback on board and making some changes themselves. The ABC aren’t the only ones weighing in though!

 

Those of you familiar with The Project would have seen Waleed Aly’s  cry to ban the bag in the 3 major Australian states- New South Wales,  Victoria and Western Australia. “We each send almost 700 kilos of waste to landfill every year, and man do we love a plastic bag,” Aly said in the editorial. “It’s estimated Australians use between four and six billion plastic bags annually. We use more than 10 million plastic bags, every day. And just since I’ve been speaking, Australians have dumped 7150 plastic bags into landfill.”

 

 (Source: The Project, Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0XHAzCBSyg)

 

The Project has also teamed up with Clean Up Australia to push the movement, with a petition doing the rounds, as well as growing awareness from media outlets, viral social media campaigns and even our big supermarkets trying to do their part for the issue (aside from removing bags completely of course- Coles and Woolworths- we’re looking at you!). Considering about 80 million plastic bags end up in our nation’s litter stream, it’s definitely something that needs to be actioned ASAP. As you hear in the video above, half of our country has held plastic bag bans for over 8 years, with Queensland joining them next year, and most of those states report high percentages of people satisfied with the bans. Despite this, the reasons for NSW, Victoria and WA not joining the movement seem to centre around a misguided idea that the premiers of said states would face backlash from us, the public!

 

China, France, Italy, The Netherlands and Kenya are among other countries that have already banned plastic bags, with some of Africa’s poorest nations- Ethiopia and Rwanda amongst them- having banned plastic bags for years now. Our federal environment minister has said he supports all states introducing a ban, with a previous federal enquiry into marine pollution and waste suggesting that banning bags would greatly increase the likelihood of the everyday consumer choosing plastic alternatives in their daily life and helping to de-clutter our seas of this poison. While some might complain that having to purchase bags is inconvenient, we think it should go a step further with a full ban helping to push people that little bit to make real changes that can affect our world in a very real way. Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have even told The Project they would comply with a ban if it were implemented!

There are so many options beyond plastic that would take only a small amount of effort on our part for a very big environmental payoff. For example, you can  replace storage with glass containers or jars- such as pyrex glass or recycled jars from your pantries for dry goods, grains and other pantry staples. There are even zero-waste supermarkets that supply or let you bring your own containers for dry goods!

 

As well as this, string bags, produce bags and canvas totes make great shopping bags- with string bags stretching to fit in all your fresh produce and those few extras, and you can use Eco Food Wraps to store various previously-packaged items such as fruit, bread, cheeses and deli goods. Often when we’re stuck for bags or forget our own, we simply ask the supermarket for one of their spare boxes- most are more than happy to oblige with an open produce box for carrying our groceries home! I’ve even spied a few old-fashioned picnic baskets on our own food shop!

What we’ve found works best is having a no-plastic shopping kit at the ready in your car- a few string bags, a bigger canvas bag with a jar or two for dry goods, and a stack of Eco Food Wraps in different sizes to store cheeses and deli goods (they’re good for pretty much everything except raw meat and fish!). You can get an idea of the different uses for Eco Food Wraps on our blog, or come up with your own unique ways to use them (just be sure to follow care instructions and share your ideas on our Facebook Page!).

 

If you shop at Coles or Woolworths, you can even discard your packaging. They have joined up with the RED Group- the Melbourne based business behind the REDcycle program bins you will start to see at most supermarkets, which aims to use packaging plastics as a base material that can be recycled into recycled goods by their partner company, Replas, who partnered up with RED Group on the REDcycle intitative a few years ago.

 

“Anyone can say no to a plastic [shopping] bag,” comments RED Group founder Elizabeth Kassell in a story with The  Guardian Online. “However, you can’t say no to a bread bag.” It’s these softer plastics that cause problems for the sorting machines used in recycling plants. This is where REDcycle steps in, collecting and processing this packaging separately, before sending it onto Replas who uses it to make mouldable recycled plastic products. Replas and RED Group are both happy to accept plastic packaging, but only if the company is willing to be a part of the solution, buying back what it contributes in waste by purchasing products such as the Replas Benches you can find at your local supermarkets. Just think- at some point this practice makes these companies rethink just how much waste they create, and that is the perfect point for change to be made!

 (Source: Ezter Wong, Facebook)

 

Are you interested in supporting the #banthebag movement? If you’re in one of the states that still allows plastic bags, perhaps you could write to your state peremier and change their perception that the public doesn’t want change. Speaking of change, activist group Change.org has a petition to our state premiers calling to #banthebag that has collected thousands of signatures- lets make ours one of them! Together we CAN make a real difference in our world!

 

 

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