Plastic is an important material in our economy and daily lives – and does have its place, such as packaging that ensures food safety and reduces food waste or bio-compatible plastics in medicine that save human lives. However, millions of tonnes of plastic shopping bags find their way into our oceans each year, with dire consequences for our marine life.
A dead male pilot whale was found last week off the coast of Thailand, authorities say died after swallowing 80 plastic bags. The ABC News report highlights the horrific impact that plastic is having on our planet and environment.
The governments of both Australia and New Zealand are taking the fight to limit single-use plastics to corporates and individuals, with initiatives aiming to ban or limit the likes of plastic shopping bags.
Queensland ban on plastic shopping bags
After the Tasmanian town of Coles Bay was the first town in Australia to ban the bag in 2003, South Australia went on to impose a ban in 2008 (saving 400 million bags annually). Now it’s Queensland’s turn. June 4 saw the start of a month-long shopping centre and digital campaign calling on Queenslanders to get behind the ban, and do their bit to reduce toxic plastic bag pollution in the Sunshine State.
As part of the ban, which applies to single-use, lightweight plastic shopping bags under 35 microns thick, most retailers will have reusable options from as little as 15 cents, up to about $5 for locally-made, hessian/canvas/jute versions. Those retailers who are non-compliant can be fined more than AU$ 6000 per offence.
“Around 16 million of these bags are littered and end up in our precious environment. The equivalent in weight to 96 small cars’ worth of plastic bags wind up in our environment where they wreak havoc on the local ecosystem, our waterways, and our marine life,” says Queensland great Mal Meninga who has joined forces with the National Retail Association to give the campaign a voice.