PLASTIC POLLUTION: Plastic Bag-Free Livingstone Shire group spokesperson Joanne Stoyel and Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga want to eliminate plastic bags in Livingstone Shire. They hope Bindi Irwin will be the face of the campaign.
PLASTIC POLLUTION: Plastic Bag-Free Livingstone Shire group spokesperson Joanne Stoyel and Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga want to eliminate plastic bags in Livingstone Shire. They hope Bindi Irwin will be the face of the campaign. Chris Ison Rokcplastic

Parliament to consider a ban on plastic bags

A FAMOUS scene from American Beauty shows footage of a plastic bag dancing on the wind, shot by a creepy drug dealing bloke with a troubling obsession for his camcorder.

"Do you want to see the most beautiful thing I've ever filmed?" he asks.

"Yesterday I realised that there was this entire life behind things.

"And this incredibly benevolent force wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid."

Unless you are a sea turtle.

A touching piece of cinematography, to be sure, but it belies an ugly truth about its subject - one our state's parliament is edging towards fixing.

Plastic bags on the wind might be amply dazzling to serve as the defining moment in an Academy Award-winning film, but the splendorous facade is shattered once they hit landfill and the ocean.

Now politicians from both sides of NSW politics have backed a call to ban single-use plastic bags.

Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith said the move had his full support as he tabled a petition with more than 12,400 signatures calling for the ban.

The proposal remains in the discussion phase but it is a step in the right direction for proponents of the bag ban, one that has Share, Create, Innovate founder Gina Lopez cautiously optimistic.

The Yamba waste advocate said she believed any sort of plastic bag ban had to go hand-in-hand with proper education and a campaign for people to bring their own bags.

"This definitely needs to happen - single-use plastic has terrible consequences for the environment - but unless you've got an educated public a ban can potentially just shift the impact," she said. "For example, the reusable green plastic bags they sell in Woolworths and Coles are actually worse than single use plastic bags so it's not necessarily a better solution."

Ms Lopez said resistance from supermarkets and lobby groups would also affect the outcome of a political decision, but ultimately the responsibility comes back to the consumer.

"The resistance big supermarkets have is because they don't want to inconvenience their customers," she said.

"It's our behaviour change that is going to make the difference. The consumer dollar is the most powerful thing we've got, and the simplicity of it is bringing your own bags."

Yamba Spar owner Phillip Moore said if a ban came to pass it would be a difficult transition, but consumers and businesses would ultimately adapt.

Last month the grocery store started Plastic Free Wednesdays, offering customers paper eco bags or 'borrow me bags' in place of plastic one day each week.

Mr Moore said he hoped the idea would catch on with more businesses in the area, despite ecobags being more expensive.

"Most people are receiving it well," he said.

"It's something that if it was brought in as a rule we'd all adapt to it and be able to carry on with paper.

"We've got lots of beautiful waterways and the last thing we want is to see plastic bags floating around in them."

POLLUTION REVOLUTION

 

Australians throw out about four billion plastic bags every year, adding up to 20,700 tonnes of plastic that could be recycled.

 

Plastic bags can be returned to supermarkets for recycling, but only 3% are ever recycled.

 

The energy consumed in the lifecycle of a single plastic bag is estimated to be equivalent to about a teaspoon of crude oil.



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