Everyone seems to have hundreds of them under the sink or packed into another bag. We get 10 a week with groceries. Each item we purchase from each individual shop comes in one. We use them as carriers, as bin-liners, while walking the dog… They are a part of every home, supplied with every purchase and are a part of everyday life. Except lately… they’re not. More homes are choosing to find alternatives. More shops are offering recyclable bags. More and more people are going plastic-bag free in their everyday lives. While this may seem like a hassle, the reason they are doing it is much more important!
It doesn’t matter how many times you re-use a plastic bag, at some point that bag will end up in the rubbish tip, where it will take 100 years to break down. Plastic bags have been highlighted as a blight on the landscape and also a danger to the health of the soil and wildlife, with fish and animals at risk of being poisoned by the toxic product. Their usage is even illegal in some countries. In Kenya using a plastic bag could land you behind bars for four years or issued a $40,000 fine. In New Zealand, the future of the single-use plastic bag has been in the national spotlight lately, with supermarkets and businesses around the country announcing an intention to say goodbye to what used to be a store staple.
However, more importantly and more drastically, the Labour Government announced last week that NZ will phase out the use of single-use plastic bags over the course of the next year. This is a big deal. A BIG deal. This shows the issue is important, that Kiwis care, and that we are going to do something about it. I personally recognise that even if 90% of people stopped using plastic bags altogether, it still wouldn’t be as effective as 100% of companies stopping producing them. While they may eventually stop producing them with a drop in usage anyway, the fastest and most effective solution is for the law to step in. The law is a tool which can be used to make immediate and lasting change.
However, there is still an issue at hand. I noticed at the supermarket on Sunday that while I had brought my recyclable bags with me, most of the food I had purchased was already pre-wrapped in plastic. There was nothing I could do to avoid this, aside from not buy the food, in which case I would have gone hungry! There were three possible outcomes I could see:
1. Do nothing
2. Stop buying the food until the company is forced to find another source to package
3. The government changes the law and the company finds another source to package
To me, either of the second solutions are great! The government changing the law is the fastest solution, but we cannot rely on them entirely. As a society we have to show that this is a change we want to see. To show this, we need to stop buying plastic wrapped food (as much as possible) and stop using plastic-bags altogether! If we show this, I promise that either the companies will change of the Government will introduce the change for them.
There really is no excuse for using a whole drawer of plastic bags anymore. So before you head off shopping with your parents, make sure someone has the recyclable bags with them. If you don’t have any then it is time to invest. Trust me, the planet will thank you later!
1. Do you think that NOT using plastic bags is important? Or do you think it’s not a good deal?
2. What will happen if we continue to use plastic bags? Will it affect us? Will it affect other animals? Will it affect sea creatures?
3. Do you think we will ever be able to get rid of plastic bags globally?
4. If you couldn’t use plastic anymore, what is the worst thing that would happen?
Practical Thinking Questions:
1. What is a solution to stop plastic bags from being produced? What is a solution to stop plastic being produced?
2. Ask your parents if they use more plastic lately than they used to 10 years ago. Why have they made a change? Why not?
3. This week, try and go plastic free. At home, in your lunch, at school. Give it a go! If it is easy, well done! If it is hard, send a letter to the companies that made it hard for you. Ask your favourite brand of biscuits why they package in plastic rather than paper. Write a letter to your local MP demanding change. Let’s make this happen!