Australians use more than 10 million new plastic shopping bags every day. That equates to 3.92 billion plastic bags each year. Each year, the average household is responsible for using 502 bags (1). (1) Department of Environment and Heritage, Plastic Retail Carry Bag Use 2002-2005 Consumption – end of year report – Hyder Consulting.
Australians dump 7,150 recyclable plastic bags into landfills every minute
Clean Up Australia Day - statistics Each year, Clean Up Australia Day identifies plastic as the major source of rubbish throughout Australia. We collect almost half a million plastic bags each year. Some one-third of all items collected are plastic, with almost one in 10 of these being plastic bags. Did you know – Australians are the second-highest producers of waste per person, after the US?
What’s in a bag? There are 2 types of plastic bags: 1. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) bags – thin bags used by more than 80% of retailers. These can be easily recycled. 2. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) – the thicker bags often used in department and boutique stores. While these bags can be recycled, there are few collection points for recycling. Be wary of biodegradable and degradable plastic bags: – Standards have only recently been developed for biodegradable bags – ask your retailer to show that the bags have passed relevant international standards. – Degradable bags just break into smaller pieces and can be even more damaging to flora and fauna.
There are about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in each square mile of our oceans. It is estimated that plastic kills up to 1 million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish each year. (2). On one remote atoll - Midway Island - some 9 in 10 Albatross chicks had plastic bag remnants in their gullets - and turtles, dolphins and killer whales can choke or starve by confusing plastic bags for jellyfish. (2) Australian Marine Conservation Society, www.amcs.org.au
... Not to mention other environmental effects When oil, gas and coal are used to produce plastic bags, they emit dangerous greenhouse gasses. The burning of gasses also creates emissions of toxic gasses, dioxins and heavy metals. Bags escape and float easily in air and water, travelling long distances. When animals which have ingested bags die and decay, the plastic is free again to repeat the deadly cycle. Plastic bags last up to 1000 years and accumulate at a staggering rate!
What you can do – consumers Plastic bags can be returned to supermarkets for recycling. – Most larger supermarkets recycle bags. If it’s difficult to find the recycling bin, suggest that it be put in a more visible place. – “Green” (polypropylene) bags can be recycled at local councils or Coles and Bi-Lo stores. – OR you can also contact your local council to see if they collect or have drop-off points for recycling. Councils, schools and community groups can sign up as Ambassadors to run bag swaps, design reusable bags and get local shops on board. For free advice and promotional materials, sign up at: http://www.cleanup.org.au/PDF/au/s-form.pdf or go to: http://www.noplasticbags.org.au/home/default.aspx
What you can do – consumers cont. TIP: Avoid using plastic bags as bin liners. Simply put your rubbish straight into your household bin and give the bin a quick rinse afterwards, then reuse the water on your garden. OR: Three layers of broadsheet newspaper as a bin liner can also work well. TIP: Before recycling, turn bags inside out and remove any receipts and food scraps - contamination can cause problems in production and prevent recycled plastic from being used.
What you can do – retailers Buy or produce your own reusable bags using our Bag Selector. Materials include paper, calico, polypropylene (‘green’ bags), starch-based biodegradable and hemp. These bags can be sold at a profit for only a few dollars each. Our preferred supplier is Adsun: Ph (07) 3399 7933 www.adsun.com.au or for other suppliers: http://www.noplasticbags.org.au/alternatives/supplierDirectory.aspx
What you can do – retailers Grab our Retailer’s Kit - $45 for a wealth of info Clean Up Australia has put together this comprehensive Kit for organisations of any size with tips on how to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle, with staff training materials and in-store promotional items to generate action. Download an order form at: http://cleanup.org.au/PDF/au/s-kit.pdf
For more information: www.cleanup.org.auwww.cleanup.org.au www.cleanuptheworld.org