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How and why you should give up plastic bags

 

Bird burying head in plastic bag

Plastic bags can be an easy way to make a big difference to the environment.

Here at carbonTRACK, sustainability is very important to us. We build technology for positive change, so we’re always interested in looking at other ways to be eco-friendly. 

It can be a big jump to cut out plastic together, so why not start with plastic bags? 

Australians currently go through a baffling 3.9 billion plastic bags every year, the majority of these come from supermarkets. As plastic bags can take between 20 and 1000 years to break down, these kinds of figures aren’t great for the environment, especially given how often plastic bags end up in oceans or landfill.

Sadly, even if you have the best intentions and try to recycle your plastic, not all types of plastics can be recycled by every local government. In Australia, we sadly only recycle 14% of recyclable plastic. On top of this, only around 50% of the plastic we think we’re recycling never makes it to be proper disposal facilities, as these local government don’t always have the correct resources.

Not only does plastic garbage take an incredibly long time to decompose, there's also the issue of the toxins they release as they degrade. 

In fact, most people already know that plastic bags are polluting our beautiful oceans: creating floating islands of waste and killing sea creatures that often mistake bags for food, or get tangled in the mess. Florida State University recently conducted a study on the Gulf Coast showing the impact of plastic bags on the environment, illuminating that small components of plastic were mixing into the sand. These minuscule pieces were causing the further endangerment of local sea turtles, as well as contributing to rising temperatures. 

Thankfully, two of Australia's biggest supermarkets Woolworths and Coles, have recently proclaimed that they will cease to provide plastic bags, phasing them out completely over the next year. Now, customers have the choice to either bring their own bag, or they will be offered a heavy-duty alternative at the price of 15 cents. While this seems like good news for those interested in sustainability, simply charging for a plastic bag, doesn't necessarily solve the issue completely. Many people are willing to pay the extra price, and thus continue to contribute to our plastic problem. This is where you come in! By not buying plastic bags, you can make a big change to our country's sustainability prospects.

So what can I do?

If you only purchase a couple items, consider carrying them!

You can also take your own bags or buy reusable bags for your shopping. Some retailers also offer recycled cardboard boxes for customers to use. Cardboard breaks down far easier than plastic, so this is a great option if you forget your reusable bags.

A handy tip if you keep finding yourself forgetting: when using reusable bags, place them back in the car as soon as you’re finished with them so they’re ready to go for the next shopping trip! Or if you carry a handbag, pop one in so you’ll always have it handy when you grab a few items on the go.

Where can I get a reusable bag for my shopping?

The majority of supermarkets in the country now offer the option to buy reusable bags, as well as many independent grocery stores and homeware stores. If you’re feeling really creative (and recycling friendly), make your own unique reusable bag out old material or clothing you no longer want!

What’s good about reusable bags?

 You’re investing in a greener lifestyle, so every time you shop you do it armed with the knowledge that you’re doing your part for the environment. But being eco-friendly isn’t the only advantage! The type of reusable bags that are available at most supermarkets hold twice as many items as plastic bags, plus they’re capable of supporting much heavier items. On the trip back to the car you can feel safe knowing your reusable bag isn’t about to burst open under the weight of heavy shopping items like milk.

What can I do with the plastic bags I already have at home?

You can reuse plastic bags you have accumulated at home as garbage bin liners, for clothing storage, for carrying wet things, for freezing food, or to pick up after pets. If you’re local council is unable to recycle them (you can normally find this information out on their website), take your plastic check-out bags to retailers such as Coles or Woolworths who participate in the plastic REDcycle Program!

At carbonTRACK we’re passionate about sustainable living. If you’re interested in finding out more about our eco-friendly energy management, you can learn about what we do here.

 

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