3 simple steps to replace single use shopping bags with reusable ones
Australia’s major supermarkets have started discouraging use of their single use polyethylene (plastic) shopping bags. An observation at a supermarket checkout recently was that many people were unaware that the supermarket was no longer supplying single use bags free of charge. Don’t get caught out at the checkout. Do your bit for better environmental health for future generations.
What’s the problem?
Single use throwaway plastic bags are too easily discarded and are bad news for pollution. Greenpeace reported we use around 9.7 million of every day of the year, and that’s just in Australia. While some of these bags may be tangled up in a pile in your pantry, most of them make their way into either landfill, or litter.
Here are just some of the negative impacts of such easily disposed bags. These single use polyurethane bags:
- contribute to 1% of Australia’s litter problem (considering how lightweight they are, that is a LOT of plastic bags!)
- pollute our oceans and can injure or kill marine life
- add to our already problematic landfill
- may biodegrade in landfill but over an unsustainably long period of time.
South Australia banned retailers from using single use shopping bags back in 2009, followed by the Australian Capital Territory in 2011 and Tasmania in 2013. The good news is that the litter item count of plastic bags in these states is significantly lower than the rest of Australia.
Here is your step by step plan for banning single use shopping bags from your home and being prepared with reusable shopping bags.
Step 1: Start by reusing your stockpile of single use plastic bags
Go through your single use shopping bag collection (that one that is usually in a dark corner of the pantry or under your kitchen sink!). Throw out damaged bags that can’t be reused and put the rest in the boot of your car, ready for your next grocery shopping trip.
Step 2: Gather all the reusable bags you already have and then some
Sturdy retail store bags can make great reusable grocery shopping bags. Gather up all the strong bags you have in your home that you could use for grocery shopping. Make sure you have a good range of sizes, so that heavier items can be put in smaller bags that you can carry without risk of injury.
You may be surprised to find you already have a good stash of bags ready for your next grocery shop. If you don’t start buying one reusable shopping bag a week. If you stumble on not-for-profit Boomerang Bags – even better! These are self-managed community groups that gather people and reusable fabrics together and sew reusable shopping bags. These are then stocked at local shopping strips or farmers markets for merely the cost of a gold coin donation.
If you’re handy on a sewing machine, and have a linen press full of outdated linen that you’ll never use again, consider sewing your own reusable bags. Thrift-conscious Australian website Frugal and Thriving are just one example of an organisation offering loads of free sewing tips and tutorials on how to make your own bags.
Step 3: Store your reusable bags in the boot of your car
Once you have a decent collection of reusable grocery shopping (and retail shopping!) bags, guess where the best place to store them is? In the boot of your car! That way, provided you use your car for shopping, you’ll always be prepared with your reusable bags at the ready.
You’ll find it pleasantly positive that unpacking larger reusable shopping bags feels far more efficient than a whole stack of small single use bags that could split at any moment! And the other benefit, it feels great to feel in control and organised, and doing your bit for our environment for future generations of humans, plants and animals.
Article by Julie Pearce | Content Services Melbourne
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