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Campaspe News - - NEWS - By DAVID RAK

COLES and Wool­worths are fi­nally pulling the pin on sin­gle-use plas­tic bags.

It has been a long time com­ing but it’s a de­ci­sion that has been ap­plauded by Aus­tralian en­vi­ron­men­tal groups.

But how much im­pact does plas­tic have on our en­vi­ron­ment?

While most hu­mans don’t bat an eye­lid at dis­carded plas­tic, 100,000 ma­rine crea­tures die from plas­tic en­tan­gle­ment every year – and those are only the ones found.

Sci­en­tists have iden­ti­fied 200 ocean ar­eas de­clared as ‘dead zones’ where life or­gan­isms can no longer grow.

That’s a re­sult of more than eight mil­lion tonnes of plas­tic waste flow­ing into the ocean every year.

Ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Na­tional Geo­graphic in the US for its Planet or Plas­tic cam­paign, al­most one mil­lion plas­tic bev­er­age bot­tles are sold minute, of every hour, of every day, 365 days a year, around the world.

That’s more than 525 bil­lion drink bot­tles every year.

Shop­pers in the US use al­most one plas­tic bag per res­i­dent per day – equat­ing to 525 bil­lion shop­ping bags every year.

By con­trast, shop­pers in Den­mark av­er­age of four plas­tic bags per res­i­dent per year – equat­ing to 22.9 mil­lion bags every year. The US con­sumes 302 mil­lion more bags in one day.

A mas­sive per cent of plas­tic pro­duced glob­ally is dis­carded af­ter only one use, and less than a fifth of all plas­tic is re­cy­cled.

Nearly half of all plas­tic ever man­u­fac­tured has been made since 2000 and about 8 per cent of the world’s oil pro­duc­tion is used to pump out all that plas­tic.

That fig­ure is pro­jected to rise to 20 per cent by 2050.

Ma­jors IGA owner Brad Ma­jor said his su­per­mar­ket will have phased out sin­gle-use plas­tic bags by July 1.

“We will have other op­tions avail­able for cus­tomers, but we will be strongly en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to bring their own re­us­able bags,” he said.

“Phas­ing them out is the right thing to do and it will be ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial for the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Plus, it has the added bonus of cut­ting down some costs for us.”

Planet Ark chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Kly­menko said the ev­i­dence was clear that sin­gle-use plas­tic bags were a huge prob­lem for Aus­tralia’s oceans and wa­ter­ways, where they cause sig­nif­i­cant harm to ma­rine life.

“This is a wel­come move by the ma­jor su­per­mar­kets that will have a pos­i­tive and mean­ing­ful im­pact on our en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

“Plas­tic bags don’t break­down in land­fill and re­quire sig­nif­i­cant re­sources to man­u­fac­ture.

“Ex­pe­ri­ences in coun­tries such as the UK and Ire­land have shown the in­tro­duc­tion of small charges on plas­tic bags can end up re­duc­ing plas­tic bag us­age by up to 85 per cent.

“Over­seas shop­pers have em­braced re­us­able al­ter­na­tives and we have con­fi­dence this can hap­pen in Aus­tralia too."

And there are pos­i­tive signs al­ready with Aus­tralians jump­ing on the re­us­able bag band­wagon fol­low­ing the ma­jor su­per­mar­kets an­nounce­ments.

Trol­ley Bags, whose re­us­able shop­ping bag sys­tem achieved vi­ral suc­cess in 2015, has ex­pe­ri­enced a 150 per cent jump in sales this fi­nan­cial year, an in­crease it di­rectly at­tributes to the an­nounce­ment.

Within days of Wool­worths and Coles an­nounc­ing their bag ban in 2017, Trol­ley Bags sales sky­rock­eted with sales up 400 per cent from the pre­vi­ous month.

Un­like other gro­cery bags, Trol­ley Bags are a sys­tem of four sturdy, re­us­able shop­ping bags that can be rolled to­gether and hung on the back of a trol­ley while shop­ping.

Once gro­ceries are un­packed at the reg­is­ter, the bags can be spread across the trol­ley in one step.

They stand up-right on their own, al­low­ing two hands free while pack­ing the bags.

Trol­ley Bags man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Peter Byrne said shop­pers were em­brac­ing the change with many look­ing beyond the su­per­mar­ket for al­ter­na­tive op­tions.

“The feed­back we’ve had from cus­tomers is they’d pre­fer to in­vest in qual­ity bags they’re less likely to for­get than con­tin­u­ally hav­ing to pur­chase bags at the check­out,” he said.

“The re­moval of sin­gle-use plas­tic bags is a pos­i­tive step to­wards re­duc­ing waste, but to make real change we need to re­use more.

“Con­tin­u­ally buy­ing thick plas­tic bags or green bags at the check­out will do the en­vi­ron­ment more harm than good.

“Trol­ley bags are made from non-wo­ven polypropy­lene, which makes them a stronger and more durable al­ter­na­tive other re­us­able shop­ping bags. Plus, they’re ma­chine wash­able which makes for easy clean­ing.”

Wool­worths will cut off sin­gleuse plas­tic bags na­tion­ally from June 20 and Coles will do the same from July 1.

That will see an end to more than 3.2 bil­lion sin­gle-use plas­tic bags that are handed out by Wool­worths in Aus­tralia each year.

Wool­worths’ chief ex­ec­u­tive Brad Ban­ducci said he be­lieved phas­ing out the bags was the right move to make and looked for­ward to work­ing with cus­tomers to cre­ate a greener fu­ture for Aus­tralia.

“Our teams have been work­ing hard be­hind the scenes to ac­cel­er­ate the roll­out of this plan so we can start mak­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment as quickly as pos­si­ble,” he said.

“We know this is a big change for our cus­tomers and store teams, and we need to do all we can to make the tran­si­tion as seam­less as pos­si­ble.”

Cus­tomers who don’t bring their own bags to Wool­worths will have ac­cess to a range of al­ter­na­tive shop­ping bag op­tions in store, in­clud­ing thicker re­us­able plas­tic bags cost­ing 15 cents and can­vas bags cost­ing 99 cents.

Coles man­ag­ing di­rec­tor John Durkan said de­spite cus­tomers en­joy­ing the con­ve­nience of sin­gle-use bags, phas­ing them out was the right thing to do.

Coles’ cus­tomers who for­get to bring their own bags will be of­fered a range of re­us­able bags avail­able for 15c each.

The bags are made from 80 per cent re­cy­cled ma­te­rial and are 100 per cent re­cy­clable through the RedCy­cle bins avail­able in all Coles’ stores.

“Coles is also in­tro­duc­ing a new range of re­us­able bags, which have been de­signed by Aus­tralian school chil­dren and will help to raise funds for four com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions, with a por­tion of sales be­ing di­rected to the wor­thy causes,” Mr Durkan said.

En­dan­gered species — Plas­tic shop­ping bags in lo­cal su­per­mar­kets will dis­ap­pear with the in­dus­try heavy­weights Coles and Wool­worths both scrap­ping them soon.

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