Chapter 16:        USE & DISPOSAL OF SINGLE USE SHOPPING BAGS

 


MOTION: That the Rudd Government legislate and/or regulation to ensure that all “single use” shopping bags, supermarket bags and “plastic wrappings” be derived from biodegradable, non-petrochemical sources such as renewable plant material, as an alternative to (a) an outright ban of “petrochemical plastic” bags, or (b) applying a monetary levy to shoppers’ use of such bags.

Rationale:

Currently, single use “Plastic” (petrochemical derived) supermarket bags currently are less expensive than renewable plant material based shopping bags with biodegradable properties. No doubt, cheapness is the primary consideration of shopping malls. The recent imbroglio over the media based rumour that Environment Minister Garratt has been considering a fee of between 25C and $1 per bag is too silly to be taken seriously. A huge public backlash would ensue. 

The relatively high cost of a few cents more for plant based biodegradable plastic bags is what has prevented a proliferation of their use to date supposedly. But compared with the monetary impost proposed by the Rudd Government ostensibly to drastically reduce the use of non-biodegradable single-use shopping bags (or those with poor degradability properties), the cost of biodegradable bags as a practical alternative would have to be a bargain, long in waiting.

Many websites offer useful information that Mr Garratt might peruse for good ideas as an alternative to making an ill-informed decision. The Australian Academy of Science has an article on the subject available at the following address:

http://www.science.org.au/nova/061/061key.htm

Readily biodegradable short chain polymers synthesised from renewable sources such as plant starch, modified chemically to prevent their dissolving in the rain, have been available for decades. The problem with them to date has been the higher cost of the plant based short chain polymers compared with the long chain petrochemical based, long chain polymers that are normally used to manufacture polypropylene plastics. 

And so, legislation or regulation requiring all single-use shopping bags to be fabricated from rapidly biodegradable material would remove the unpopularity of either (a) bans or (b) fees for single usage. Such impediments to political popularity could be replaced with perceptions of a government with positive solutions that actually drive economic growth. Large scale usage would create a boon for farmers. Large scale production would drive unit prices down. Not only that, but new industries based upon biodegradable plastics could be developed in Australia to supply local and export markets.

Now, (at this point in time going forward, rather than going backward or sideways or going loony), would be a good time to surge ahead to establish new industries for the benefit of farmers. All that would be required would be the political wit and the political will. If the Rudd Government fears some losses to its political coffers, due to the unpopularity of such propositions with (a) the oil cartels or (b) the shopping cartels, then such an adverse outcome could be replaced with the song and dance routine of a “Yes or No?” referendum “Online”!

Apart from the obvious environmental problems arising from proliferation of “plastic shopping bags”, the bags have many uses in addition to convenient transportation of purchases from the shop to home. People use plastic bags for all sorts of additional disparate purposes. Therefore, it is highly likely that an outright ban would be resented a significant proportion of the population. A direct monetary levy being applied at the check-out for each single-use “fossil fuel derived plastic bag” is also be likely to be resented.

 

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