by Anne McArthur
Let’s ban single-use plastic grocery bags in Bondi.
Blue Bondi Green is a community group working in the Bondi Beach area with the aim to eliminate plastic bags from entering the environment.
It’s not all plastic bags that we are focused on. Blue Bondi Green is not tackling the thicker, stronger plastic bags often found at department stores. Nor is it dealing with “barrier bags”; used when purchasing fish, meat and fruit and vegetables. For now, our sights are set on the single use, flimsy plastic bags you typically find at the supermarket, and that are used by many retail and food outlet businesses.
How Blue Bondi Green is engaging with local businesses.
The Blue Bondi Green campaign is use three core strategies to achieve the desired outcome:
- business engagement
- promoting consumer awareness
- political action
In this article, we’re focusing on the business engagement side.
Of the first 75 businesses that were visited around Bondi Beach, half were found to be plastic bag free already. And a small portion were at least 50% plastic bag free. Roughly one-third of businesses were only using plastic bags. At first, these statistics look quite promising. But within the last group are the 6 mini-markets and supermarkets. The volume of plastic bags these businesses churn out is alarming. So there is significant work for the Blue Bondi Green campaigners to take on.
Changing the business practice of using plastic bags is not an easy task.
Cold calling on businesses generally means that one speaks to an employee rather than the business owner or manager. While the employee is generally sympathetic to Blue Bondi Green’s cause, the decision to change to an alternative has to be referred up the management chain. Occasionally, when one does find the manager or owner, the most frequently cited reason for not moving away from plastic bags is cost. A paper bag can be three to ten times as expensive as its plastic counterpart.
‘Degradeable’ and ‘biodegradeable’ bags are not the solution.
A number of businesses use “degradable” bags, such as those manufactured by Epi. Such manufacturers claim that the bags are environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, they are not! Degradable bags simply break down into smaller pieces of plastic. They still float in our oceans, are mistaken for jelly fish, and are then eaten by sea animals causing the animals to choke and die. Once the bags begin to disintegrate, they are consumed by smaller sea creatures and then enter the food chain, ultimately to be consumed by us. Biodegradable bags also float in the water and are just as problematic, even if they eventually do break down into harmless substances in the sea.
Plastic overload – what can you do to help?
Blue Bondi Green will continue to campaign around Bondi to achieve business change. However, it’s easier to convince a business to make a move away from single-use plastic bags if they believe the community will support them in making that change. Here is where you as a consumer can help.
- Get in the habit of carrying a lightweight reusable bag with you. You’ll immediately reduce the number of plastic bags entering the environment, you’ll signal to businesses that you want to move away from plastic, and you’ll act as a role model in encouraging other shoppers to bring their own bags.
- Congratulate shop owners who choose not to use plastic bags and make them your preferred retail outlet.
- Educate shop staff on“degradable” bags. Degradable bags are by no means an environmentally sound alternative to plastic.
- Join us in the campaign for the elimination of plastic bags. If you would like to join Blue Bondi Green, contact Anne on 0410 292 774 or email [email protected]