South Australia bans plastic bags

Last year I lamented the state of the roadsides heading north out of Adelaide  (the capital city of South Australia) – they were just a plastic shopping bag graveyard. I also mentioned the intention to phase out plastic bags in South Australia by 2009.

In June this year, the South Australian Minister for Environment and Conservation introduced legislation seeking to ban polyethylene plastic bags made from polymer 35 microns or less thick. Only compostable and biodegradable polyethylene based bags that meet Australian Standard AS 4736-2006 would be excluded from the ban under the proposed legislation.

I was very pleased to read that this ban will be going ahead. Last Thursday, the legislation was passed and the ban will come into effect on May 4 next year. It’s hoped that other Australian states will follow South Australia’s lead.

A few stores have already ended the use of plastic shopping bags, such as Bunnings Warehouse – a major hardware chain. They’ve had a program in place for a couple of years (?) now. They offer reusable bags you can buy, or free cardboard boxes for carting away your purchases. I have a very bad habit of forgetting to take reusable bags with me when I go shopping, so I’m welcoming this ban as a way for me to finally get into the habit.

Just some thoughts on reusable bags though – we have quite a few that we bought from the supermarket (the supermarket’s own brand), which are made of recycled materials. This is great, but I’ve noticed that they weigh quite a bit more than a single use bag and seem to wear out pretty quickly.

If a resuable bag weighs the equivalent of 50 throwaway bags and is only good for 50 uses, this is a problem as the equivalent amount of plastic will still enter the waste stream. While I doubt turtles and sea birds will accidentally eat them (some aquatic animals mistake clear/white plastic bags as jellyfish), they’ll still be an eyesore and present similar challenges to other forms of plastic pollution. Additionally, buying bags all the time will wind up costing a bit of cash; so it’s probably best to fork out a little extra and get reusable bags that will last the distance.


Recycling – plastic bag crafts