Australia cut the use of plastic bags by 80 percent in just three months

As we see more and more stories about sea creatures like whales found dead with bellies full of plastic, more and more countries and localities are banning single-use plastics like bags and straws. In one dramatic example, Australia cut the use of plastic bags by 80 percent in just three months, and it wasn’t due to government regulations. Now, the government could implement a ban nationwide.


Two of the largest supermarket chains in Australia, Woolworths, and Coles, banned single-use plastics in stores in the Australian states of Queensland and Western Australian. The supermarkets made a voluntary decision, following the lead of Tasmania and South Australia. Another ban of plastic shopping bags is set to go into effect in late 2019 in Victoria.

In New South Wales, Australia’s most populated state, the ban of single-use plastic has been under petition thanks to a 15-year-old schoolgirl named Sophia Skarparis, named Young Conservationist of the Year by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.


The ban of plastic bags by Woolworths and Coles did not go without resistance from a few angry customers.


According to the NY Post:


“The chains said the ban was initially met with such outrage that Woolworths experienced flailing sales. And one Coles shopper was reportedly so frustrated he couldn’t get a free plastic bag that he threatened an employee and grabbed him by the throat. This led to Coles sporadically backtracking on the 11-cent tax for a reusable plastic bag and handing them out for free, citing customers’ struggle to adjust. (They’ve since reinstated the tax.)”

Fortunately, customers seemed to adjust the ban and the stores were able to prevent over 1.5 billion bags from polluting the environment. The country uses more than 10 million plastic bags a day.


The National Retail Association in Australia’s manager of industry policy, David Stout gave kudos to the supermarkets.


“Retailers deserve an enormous amount of kudos for leading the way on one of the most significant changes to consumer behavior in generations and we also applaud shoppers for embracing this environmental initiative,” said Stout.

Today, Australia is considering stricter single-use plastic restrictions. If the Labor Party returns to power after the 2019 federal elections in May, they have proposed banning microbeads and some plastic bags across Australia. The ban would be implemented as part of a $290-million plan to curb plastic pollution, clean up the Pacific Ocean and beaches, and implement recycling in Australia.


Labor leader Bill Shorten says the move was partly inspired by the need to save ocean life like sea turtles.


“Plastic has a devastating impact on our natural environment – more than a third of the world’s sea turtles were found to have plastic waste in their stomachs, and it is estimated around 90 percent of seabirds eat plastic waste,” said Shorten.


If Australia implements a ban, they would follow the footsteps of over 50 countries that have either banned or implemented a tax for disposable plastic bags. The bans vary in their enforcement, with Kenya being one of the strictest. In the East African country, one could go to jail for four years or face a steep fine of up to $40,000 for using disposable plastic bags. The first country to implement a plastic bag ban was Bangladesh, which enacted the rule in 2002.


In the United States, only three states have a ban on single-use plastic bags. Those states are California, Hawaii, and a ban taking effect on March 1, 2020, in New York.


See more about Australia’s plastic bag bans from ABC News Australia below:


Featured image: Screenshot via Instagram/Sophia Skarparis

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Matthew Silvan

Progressive liberal from the American south. Working to educate and inform on issues like preserving the environment, equality for minorities and women, and improving the quality of life for mankind and our ecosystem. Following the facts in the face of a movement to follow only the money.

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