This Big Aussie Supermarket Chain Has Made An Eco-Friendly Move To Ban Plastic Bags

But not everyone is happy...

plastic bags
Image: iStock

If you’re a supermarket shopper down under, you’ll no doubt be very familiar with those ubiquitous, grey plastic bags that are part and parcel of a trip to the retail-hubs of Woolworths and Coles. Well, not for much longer y’all—as Woolworths have officially banned the use of single use plastic bags as of June the 20th, with Coles to follow suit come July 1st.

Woolworths will offer reusable bags including a 15 cent thick plastic bag that’s made from at least 80% recycled plastics, a 99 cent canvas ‘Bag for Good’, a 99 cent ‘foldable bag’ and a $2.49 ‘chiller bag’ to give you more sustainable, eco-friendly reusable options. Coles will also offer 15 cent bags, as well as multi-use bags from $1.

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Online orders will now be packed into reusable bags for $1 per order, or, if you select Woolworths’ ‘crate to bench’ delivery service, packed directly into crates and then unpacked by your delivery driver when they arrive for the small fee of $3.50. Proudda you, Woolies.

While the move has widely been met with support from the community, there’s always going to be some Debbie downers. A survey of 2200 shoppers revealed that 21% disagree with the decision to ban plastic bags—citing inconvenience as the main reason, alongside the argument that ‘single-use’ bags actually have a multitude of uses around the home; from bin liners to dog-waste disposal receptacles. Luckily—in the spirit of true sustainability, environmental campaigner John Dee has come up with a solution, suggesting that people use the plastic bags that come with loaves of bread instead. He says they’re longer, stronger and a whole lot more practical. Who knew?

Environmental impact

We know we’re probs preaching to the choir here, but the ban reiterates the destruction that single-use plastic unleashes on the environment. Here’s the deal:

50% of plastic produced is single-use. The average lifespan of a plastic bag is just twelve minutes. It takes 500 or more years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill, and 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually.

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

Birds often mistake shredded plastic bags for food, and end up filling their stomachs with toxic debris. For hungry sea turtles, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between jellyfish and floating plastic bags. Fish eat thousands of tons of plastic a year, transferring it up the food chain to bigger fish and marine mammals. So to say that banning the plastic bag is crucial for the future of marine ecosystems and our planet at large is an understatement.

Human health impact

Because it ain’t just fish that pay the price of the human race’s overuse of plastic. 90% (yes, 90%!) of adults have endocrine-disrupting chemicals from plastic in their bloodstream, the effects of which have been linked to all sorts of health problems. From cancers to infertility and birth defects, plastic is about as toxic as things come.

If Woolies and Coles have got you fifty shades of inspired, consider these tips to reduce your use of plastic further:

  • Switch to reusable coffee cups and water bottles
  • Swap plastic and disposable storage containers for mason jars and glass ones
  • Say no to BPA-brimming shop receipts
  • Ditch the canned food
  • Use a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one

Lastly, remember that every little change that every person makes stands to make a huge difference to the future of our planet. Green is great!

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