Words by: Stephanie Booth Art by: Charlotte Elwell
“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?“
The next time you do, try saying no.
I once watched a man purchase a small bottle of soft drink from a supermarket, then request a plastic bag for it. A small bottle. A big bag. A fully-grown man. A single item.
Everything seems to get a day of recognition (National Lima Bean Respect Day and Answer the Phone like
Buddy the Elf Day are obviously extremely serious and should be recognised globally), but July 3 each year is Plastic Bag Free Day and although it doesn’t have a coloured ribbon or awkward company afternoon tea, it’s a reminder for us to check if we’re really putting our polymers where our promises are.
There isn’t any need for single-use plastic bags anymore and the public furore that resulted from the 2018 announcement of major supermarkets phasing them out was embarrassing and ridiculous. So after some serious hissy-fits, supermarkets caved and re-introduced them. How disappointing.
Most of us have one, if not a cupboard full, of reusable bags at home. But how often do you forget them? Set yourself up for success: put one in your bag, one in your desk drawer, a couple in your car, one down your pants. Whatever you need to do to avoid the need to use a plastic shopping bag.
Why not challenge yourself to reuse items that have been packaged in single-use plastic as a replacement for purchased plastic bin liners for example? I could never wrap my head around buying plastic bin liners, only to fill them with more plastic, and then put them in the bin!
Uber Eats bag? Bin liner. The bag that spinach leaves come in? Bin liner. Doritos bag? Bin liner. Sleeve from a bunch of hastily-purchased Woolworths flowers? Bin liner. Postage satchel from The Iconic? Bin liner. 7/11 single-use plastic bag you guiltily had to get in a pinch on the rush home from work because you forgot your fucking reusable bags again? Bin liner.
“But that’s unhygienic!”
I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t eat out of my bin. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of counter arguments, but single-use plastic is a plague on all our houses, most importantly the houses of those of us that don’t have the dexterity to avoid swallowing it or tangling themselves in it. Such as… all residents
of the ocean and many residents of the sky.
“But these are all small bags, I’ll be emptying the bin all the time!”
Oh no! Not incidental exercise! I care about not choking my planet with crap more than I care about taking a few extra trips to the wheelie bin. Yes, you’ll need to empty the bin more, I’m sure the extra steps (while we’re all stuck at home anyway) won’t kill you, like an excess of plastics in the ground will eventually kill the earth we live on.
“Re-using plastic packaging is gross!’”
You’re gross for wasting excessive plastic and then posting a picture of a turtle with a plastic bag caught in its beak on Instagram once a year for World Environment Day. Put your money where your mouth is and actually do something other than getting high on the fumes of your own smugness because you bought a hydroflask or a metal straw but still continue to purchase individually plastic-wrapped products, housed in wax-coated cardboard boxes.
“I already do my bit for the environment!”
Got yourself a KeepCup? Got yourself a cupboard full of them? Collected from every conference or industrial fair you’ve ever been to? These well-meaning but useless pieces of detritus are made from Low Density Polythene (LDPE) and take thousands of years to break down. And be honest, how often do you remember to actually bring your cup and use it? That’s what I thought. Landfill. Cute landfill, but still landfill. Good for you for having one (or ten) but use it — actually use it — and for the love of God wash it before you hand it to the poor barista.
Another interesting fact, and some may not know this, is that often fruit and vegetables — such as bananas and citrus — actually come in their own packet (hint: it’s their skin). Wrapping things a second time in one, sometimes two, layers of single-use plastic is INSANE, however many supermarkets shrink-wrap a deplorable volume of produce. Layer upon layer of packaging to protect a sweet potato from being damaged Unnecessary.
There are hundreds of everyday items that are made of, or wrapped in, single-use plastics that are difficult to avoid. It is ultimately up to the organisation or manufacturer to change how their products are packaged, depending on how much they actually care about making real changes that truly serve their purported corporate social responsibility statements.
What we as individuals can do however, is make changes and choices where we can. I’m not suggesting the efforts and changes we are already engaging in are futile — keep them up — I’m just saying there is so much more we can do.
Be inconvenienced, walk that bit further to the shop that uses less plastic on their produce, and take your reusable cups and bags.
Happy Plastic Bag Free Day everyone.