This week we were enthralled to learn that France is taking environmental preservation to a new level by banning single use plastic ware such as cups, plates and cutlery. For decades, similar measures have been instigated for plastic bags around the globe - and it lead us to questioning, where is Australia sitting?
Australians use around 4 billion plastic bags every year - that’s a whopping 10 million or so each day. An estimated 50 million of these end up in our waterways and ocean.
Imagine if we – as a united community - had the power to reduce the 4 billion pieces of waste being added to Australia’s landfill annually? Conjure up an image of us having the capacity to prevent thousands of birds and marine life choking on tiny pieces of debris found floating in their homes, leading to their own death and that of their entire species? And finally, take a moment to envisage the environmental in centuries to come, saturated in tatters of a material that never fully biodegrades, creating havoc in our ecosystem?
Stop dreaming. Before you begin to conceive this would only happen by some outlandish environmental movement, wind it back. And when you do, appreciate that all of the above relates to one manmade creation: the single use, high-density polyethylene plastic bag.
See, this isn’t ground breaking news to us though. The globe is well aware of the horrific impact of these bags, particularly that their typical usage time spans for 12 minutes, and that they stay in the environment for over 1,000 years. As it stands in 2016, over 40 countries have enforced measures to reduce the consumption and production of the single use plastic bag. And by the way, it’s not only the economically wealthy countries, nor is it those who are well educated. No. Simply stated, measures have been introduced after acknowledgement of the catastrophic impact of the bags. And the groups of conscientious individuals within those nations have said: “no more”.
So why would they take action? Gee.. well, when two thirds of your nation is submerged underwater as a result of drains being blocked from plastic bag litter – as exhibited in Bangladesh between 1989 and 1998 – you probably won’t ignore the problem. Or maybe when your government has an acute awareness that if they allow the status quo to continue, the pristine, clean province adored by citizens and tourists alike will be negatively impacted upon, as demonstrated by France.
So, Australia – land of the lucky country, where our expansive, magnificent landscape and endless crystal blue waters is our national pride – where do we stand? One would assume that given our love of our incredible land we possess – that we would have stringent measures against plastic bag use and production. Further, it could be presumed that we are not only supportive, but leading figures in this operation. Yes, it’s fair to assume. But are we?
As much as we’d love to say yes; unfortunately it’s just not the case. The majority of our states – Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia - have failed to act, with no formal legislation to address the problem of plastic bags. Sure, there’s the occasional debate in the parliament house, we’ve tested out levies (in Victoria, which lead to a 79% reduction in plastic bag use at supermarkets), and we’ve had over 10,000 people sign a petition to ban plastic bags in NSW. But still, no authoritative movement has occurred.
If this makes you infuriated; you’re not alone. We at Bamboo Life Australia, are equally as angered by this lack of respect for our environment. So, before another day passes, let’s all agree on measures that we can take – personally – to preserve our pristine ecosystem.
The greatest power you possess is over your own life; so lead by example. Say no to plastic bags at the checkout. Use reusable bags where you can. If you do find plastic bags laying around your home, either reuse or recycle them. And encourage others to do the same. Make them aware of the devastating environmental impact plastic bags have: and not just for you and I, but for the children in generations to come, the defenceless ecosystem, and the marine and sea creatures. Because if you don’t take action in your own life, why should anyone else?
Watch GreenPeace Australia Campaign Video: Ban The Bag