In Australien wurden vor Kurzem kostenlose Wegwerfplastiktüten verboten – in kleiner Schritt in die richtige Richtung, aber im Großen und Ganzen ist das Recycling-system noch etwas unterentwickelt.
Peter Flynn on the use of plastic
Many readers, I’m sure, will be shocked to learn that only in recent months has Australia banned single-use plastic shopping bags. Those thin grey plastic bags have been, quite literally, part of the Australian landscape for decades. Worse still, a lot of them finish up in the ocean along with many other plastics such as straws. Few people used to take their own bags to the supermarket. Now everyone has to, or we must buy a reusable bag at the checkout.
All states, except New South Wales, have new laws that ban the throwaway bag. In NSW, our most populous state, the government thinks the move is unnecessary because the big supermarkets — Coles, Woolworths and Aldi — have stopped using them.
That’s probably true, but nothing would have changed if Aldi had not entered the Australian market a few years ago. Like many of the big global supermarket chains, they have not been giving away single-use bags for decades. The home-based Coles and “Woolies” (short for Woolworths), which still dominate food sales, simply followed in what some think was a cynical public-relations exercise.
Nevertheless, the changes have enormous public support, and we are all getting into the habit of taking our own shopping bags with us, although I still hear people curse when they realize they have left theirs in the car. Oops! That’s a long walk back to get them.
Another big change spreading across the country are the container deposits, where you get 10 cents back for returning various drink bottles and cans. For at least 50 years, though, Australia has not had anything like the German Pfand system, where glass bottles are washed and reused multiple times. When I was a kid, milk bottles were cleaned and put outside the front door every day; however, the milkman stopped coming a long time ago.
The other confusing thing about containerdeposit schemes is that they don’t apply to wine and spirit bottles, nor to plastic milk and fruit containers. You mainly get refunds for carbonated (bubbly) beverage containers, such as those for beer and soft drinks. Everything else has to go into the yellow-top recycling bins, which the local council collects every fortnight — something Australians take rather seriously in sorting out their rubbish. Sadly, though, a lot of the “recyclables” end up being buried in landfill, especially since China stopped taking foreign waste from around the world at the beginning of this year. About 30 per cent of the yellow bin — especially plastics — used to go there.
We’ve always kept the glass, which, at worst, can be turned back into sand to serve as roadbase. But apparently, our stockpiles of glass are growing, while we use virgin sand for most of our road building. Look, I’m happy we have banned the plastic shopping bags, but the reality is that our whole waste-management system is, well, still a bit of a mess.