Can’t kick the plastic habit? Fear not: there’s miles of it left

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

So our biggest supermarkets will be free of single-use plastic bags by mid year. We know because they tell us so in large signs which proudly proclaim their self-imposed deadline.

An effective move it was too – enough to stop the NSW Government from legislating to ban the bags. Instead, a self-regulated solution led by business.

We should be happy supermarkets are doing the responsible thing. Right?

Sadly, there’s always a but.

Look to the left of that large sign and what do we have? Single-use wipes so people can sanitise their trolley handle. Then chuck the wipes in the bin.

BIG OL' WHEELIE BIN LINER: Carry that so far away.

BIG OL' WHEELIE BIN LINER: Carry that so far away.

Have a look at the supermarket’s bin, just to the left. It’s lined with large wheelie bin liners, otherwise known as single use plastic bags. In between is a dispenser of single-use plastic umbrella bags.

Onwards. In fresh food, people grab a super-thin single-use plastic bags to put fruit in, take it to the register, and place it all in another bag. While bags under 35 microns thick are being banned in most states, fresh’s food’s “barrier bags”, the most redundant of all, will not be scrapped.

To the shelves. There’s a new kind of apple – a rather small one. And it comes in a tube, made of plastic. Perfect for snacking!

Feel like some grapes? Here we have white grapes at the nice price of $3/kg. And on the shelf above, the same grapes – but they have been portioned and boxed into heavy plastic punnets, and for that privilege the price goes up to $5 for 380g.

Sucker grapes – pop them into a barrier bag, goes the gag. But what message are we really sending when the same grapes are given a value of five times as much when they’re coated in plastic.

Sure it’s possible this is a plastic-disincentive “price point” from the environmentally conscious supermarket but does anyone actually believe that’s what’s going on here?

At the register, instead of single-use bags, you pay 15c for a thicker bag. Not thick enough to last very long, mind you. Trouble is, if these ones end up in the sea, they have several times as much plastic in them.

SUCKER GRAPES: Same grapes, more plastic, more money.

SUCKER GRAPES: Same grapes, more plastic, more money.

I was there the other day, I’d forgotten my canvas bags, and the 15c thing was no disincentive at all. Sweet, I thought, only 15 cents!

The point? Amid so many loopholes, so much over-packaging, and an oversupply of sheer thoughtlessness, I wonder if perhaps we can do a bit better than this.