Around Oz

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.

Spotlight - - CONTENTS - PETER FLYNN is a pub­lic-re­la­tions con­sul­tant and so­cial com­men­ta­tor who lives in Perth, Western Aus­tralia.

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.

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