Last week the Queensland government announced that it would introduce a ban on single use, lightweight plastic bags. The ban will become effective from 2018.
The move has been welcomed by environmental groups across the country, who are calling on the remaining states to follow suit. “Queensland’s move is a significant step forward in reducing plastic litter and its impact upon native and marine wildlife,” says Jeff Angel, the director of environmental group, The Boomerang Alliance. “We call on NSW and Victoria to join in – already well-over one billion bags have been littered in the last 10 years through their inaction.
The ban will follow similar bans already in place in South Australia, ACT, Northern Territory and Tasmania, but Queensland has taken it one step further including so-called ‘degradable and biodegradable’ plastic bags in the ban. Despite their claims of biodegradability, these bags are extremely harmful to the environment, as they break up into dangerous microplastics that enter the food chain. “Plastic bags in particular are a problem for birds and marine animals that often mistake these for food or get entangled in them,” explains Angel.
Australians use 3.92 billion plastic bags a year. That is over 10 million new bags being used every day. Out of that number, an estimated 3.76 billion are disposed of in landfill. That equates to 20, 700 tonnes of plastic going into the environment. Coming into the Christmas season when we are all expected to shop more than ever, we are all encouraged to avoid using plastic bags where possible and try and bring our own reusable bags instead.
Watch this TED-Ed talk on what happens to plastics when they get into the environment