Back in May last year the state where I live, South Australia, implemented a ban on lightweight disposable plastic shopping bags. In my opinion the initiative has worked very, very well.
Back in 2007, I posted about the sad sight along one of Adelaide’s busiest road where miles and miles of the roadsides were very heavily peppered with plastic bag trash.
Fast forward 2 years and I’m pleased to say the difference is remarkable.
One of my fears about the move to reusable shopping bags is that we would just start seeing these littering the roadsides instead, particularly the ones sold at supermarket checkouts. To date, that doesn’t appear to be happening. I have some of the cheaper bags that can be recycled and they have held up quite well. However, I think many of us have built up quite a collection of these, so the problem may be yet to rear its ugly head.
Regardless, South Australia has demonstrated that people really don’t need lightweight disposable plastic shopping bags. The transition was pretty smooth and nobody died for want of the disposable bags as far as I know.
Far from it being a “nanny state” sort of move, the ban was necessary. The old saying goes that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. In my case it was my brain that was weak. Prior to the ban I don’t know how many times I would go shopping and forget my reusable bags. Now that the option of disposable ones have been removed, my memory is much better :).
This is what it takes some time to make real progress – rather than provide choices, remove them.
People often object to such bans saying it infringes on their freedom. What people don’t understand is freedom without accountability is the worst form of anarchy. True freedom has a heavy responsibility attached to it.
We played our part in polluting our land and waterways with these bags, we didn’t address it, so our government did for us. In this case, it was a good call.
Our next step as consumers is to evaluate the type of reusable shopping bags we use.