The long-awaited plastic bag ban is in effect and you are now faced with two options when choosing how to take your groceries home from the supermarket. The first is to use truly reusable shopping bags, those made from canvas, cotton or tough recycled plastic. The second is to purchase “reusable” thicker plastic bags, which average at about 15 cents per bag. Please do not buy into the idea that these thicker plastic bags are any better for the environment than the lightweight ones. They are still plastic, and if consumers continue to use the heavy-duty plastic bags at the same rate as the lightweight bags, the result for the environment may actually be worse.
A UK Government life-cycle analysis of single-use versus reusable bags stated that heavy-duty plastic bags need to be reused at least four times to make up for the increased greenhouse gas emissions caused by their production. Heavy-duty plastics may also take longer to break down in the environment. Both will eventually end up as harmful microplastics if they enter the ocean.
The news that the Woolworths group have back-flipped on the ban and will be giving away these bags for free until 8 July is terribly disappointing. I find it almost incomprehensible that people have reacted this way, as I generally have felt the community sentiment regarding the ban has been a positive one — a great step forward for the environment.
Investing in a good set of bags is really the best option, and then the trick is remembering them every time you shop. For me, the key is having plenty of bags available, between 10-15 works for us a family of 4. This means even if I have forgotten to return them to the car, there will always be more in the boot. The bags get taken straight back out to the car the minute they are unpacked. I have found this much more effective than leaving them by the door. We are usually in a rush when leaving the house and believe it or not, it is far too easy not to notice the giant pile of canvas bags waiting by the door (it’s not just me, right?).
Author Madeline Somerville of All You Need is Less has the following solution to forgetfulness: “Take your purchases without. The reason is that this experience will be so horrific, and so infuriating, and so utterly humiliating as you load your purchase one by one into the grocery cart with the entire line-up behind you watching in bemused confusion, that it will be forever burned into your psyche…and mark my words, you will remember your cloth bags!”