Plastic bag bans – do they really work?

I remember on a recent trip to San Francisco, I was taken aback by how environmentally friendly the whole city was. Everybody drove a Prius, some buses ran on electricity instead of petrol, they had an amazing trash/recycling system (you have to use compostable plastic bags for food waste!) and every store I went into had a plastic bag tax. Now, I know the latter might have been some people’s worst nightmare (“So you’re telling me I’m on holiday and I also have to pay an extra 10c every time I want to buy something?”) but it was eye-opening and inspirational for me. Always having been aware of the issue of plastic bag waste/pollution, living temporarily in a city that had implemented a city-wide plastic bag ban was interesting – and not as hard as people make it out to be.

Returning back to Sydney though, I was thrown back into a world where a plastic bag was just another part of your daily routines – back in a world where no bans existed, I could understand how easy it was to fall back into a routine of using single-use plastic bags. However, knowing full well of the detriment this entails and how easy the solution is, I’ve vowed to try and reduce by plastic bag intake until they implement a statewide plastic bag ban in NSW (come one NSW, SA has been on it for ages now!)

Apart from the fact that our poor wildlife can’t dodge and defend these airborne predators as well as we can (as mentioned in the previous post), here are some reasons why a plastic bag ban works!

1. Bans encourage the use of reusable or single use bags

A non-partisan Equinox centre found that plastic bag bans in San Jose, San Diego and LA resulted in a reduction of single-use plastic bags and people were using reusable bags or no bags at all! After Ireland implemented a plastic bag tax, plastic bag usage dropped 94%.

2. Bans reduce litter issue

Photo source: Latitude news

Do you really want to live in a world of filth and rubbish? The plastic bag ban in San Jose was found to reduce litter by approx. 89% in the storm drain system, 60% in creeks and rivers and 59% in neighbourhoods. That’s a GREAT difference considering the fact that the world produces 2.5 trillion plastic bags a year that mostly end up as litter. No one likes a plastic tumbleweed…

3. Large amounts of plastic bags aren’t easily recycled – so bans help us by reducing the need to even get to this point

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. PLastic bags SHOULD be recycled by the process is cumbersome and too hard for a majority of people to do. So what happens? Well only 3% of plastic bags are recycled correctly, leaving a whopping 97% free to work their way into our environment and threaten our poor, defenseless wildlife. On average families also bring home 1500 plastic bags. Ask yourself, do you re-use all 1500 bags that you bring home? Why not just invest in one or two canvas tote bags that you WILL reuse and won’t make their way into our environment as pollution?

THIS is why we really think that a plastic bag ban actually helps and should be implemented. What are your thoughts?

In the meantime, we’ll still be toting our reusable bags #totewise. Who’s with us?

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#TOTEWISE Submissions

We love finding people who are opting for reusable totes instead of plastic bags on a day to day basis – whatever the situation may be. Here’s a few of our favourite images from some of our lovely readers!

What are your thoughts on using totes on a daily basis?

Keep your eyes peeled because we might be running a little competition soon!

Hannah double-toteing!
Kenny's beach bag
Kenny’s beach bag
Cathy and Nicholas taking our advice and purchasing the Salt Meats Cheese tote bag!

This week’s Plastic Free roundup

It’s Friday, which means another week is drawing to a close. We thought we’d do a recap of the most interesting plastic free related facts we found out this week.

LandCare Conference 2014

“When the earth is spoiled, humanity & all living things are diminished” – Bob Hawke

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Landcare Australia held their 2014 National Landcare Conference in Melbourne this week from September 17-19. The conference focused on the theme of Celebrating our history, growing our future. There were keynote speeches from renowned chef Matt Moran, CSIRO Futures leader Dr Stefan Hajkowicz and ABC TV Landline presenter Pip Courtney amongst the many other documentary, speeches and activities going on at the conference. It was a great way of engaging young people with the issues of land and water degradation, and how sustainability is the way of the future.

We can only hope that the positive effects of the Landcare Conference helped our younger generations realise the importance of recycling and sustainable practices. Innovation is often viewed as a necessity in fixing a lot of the issues we face with the environment, but sometimes the smallest practice such as properly recycling our plastic bags or carrying around a reusable bag can make a huge difference. It can impact directly or indirectly on other issues. Most people don’t think much about the plastic bag they’ve thrown in the bin, but this one bag would most potentially find its way into our water systems and threaten our wildlife. In fact, each year 10 million tonnes of plastic ends up in waterways around the world.

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Photo credit: ECCO Magazine

If you’re on Twitter, have a quick browse of the #landcareconf14 and #landcare25 to catch all the action that went down!

Timboon, Victoria

In more uplifting news, we discovered that a humble little town, Timboon in Victoria is celebrating its 10th year going plastic free! Timboon was the first town in Victoria to go plastic-free in its business district way back in 2004. Timboon’s plastic bag initiative was started out by a local takeaway food shop owner, Jeff Bedggood along with a few other traders. They used a government pilot grant to help remove the need for plastic bags in their town – and now, 14 years later Timboon have a complete plastic bag ban. That’s 130 000 less plastic bags a month in the supermarket alone. This is a spectacular story of how a few individuals can spark a larger community movement and achieve success!

mission-success

California plastic bag ban (finally!) 

California has made history, becoming the FIRST American state to pass a statewide plastic bag ban. San Francisco became the first city in the whole of the US to implement this ban back in 2007. It seems the rest of the state is only starting to catch up now, but better late than never. Nathan Weaver of Environment California says the ban “shows that we can achieve lasting victories for ocean and environmental health. Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our ocean for hundreds of years.”

We can only hope this movement spreads to NSW who still remains one of the few Australian states to not yet implement a plastic bag ban. Just to put things into perspective for you worldwide, an estimated 1 trillion plastic bags is consumed annually. That’s a staggering 2 million plastic bags per minute. We only use these bags for an average of 12 minutes before we dispose of them. Unfortunately it takes 15-1000 years for a plastic bag to degrade and even so, they’re not completely degraded. They only break up into smaller plastic particles.

It’s nice to see the world is starting to notice the need for the plastic bag ban.

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Enjoy your weekend responsibly and don’t forget your reusable tote bags! #totewise #plasticfree

How to tote wisely

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Quite fittingly for our first post, we’re giving you a brief guide on the immense practicality of tote bags that will leave you wondering why you still haven’t yet ditched the plastic bag for its much more handy and handsome counterpart – the humble reusable tote bag. You’ll pay a one-time small, affordable amount for a bag that is strong, durable, washable and will eliminate the need of over 1000 plastic bags at the very least in the long run.

You know what the best part is? You can reuse the exact same canvas tote bag for all the following purposes. Let’s join in on the revolution of #BYOB. Bring your own bag.

1. Grocery bag

Most of the plastic bags we accumulate come from our multiple trips to the supermarket. The lifespan of a plastic bag is short. We use it to carry our groceries from point A (the supermarket) to our cars and then to point B (home). Then that’s it, every time we go back to the supermarket we’re given yet another plastic bag to serve the exact same purpose as its predecessor. Yet for something that serves such a short purpose, it takes a hell of a long time to break down (15-1000 years in fact)! If we all just packed a reusable canvas bag with us every time we went to the supermarket, imagine how much less plastic bags we’d be using.

Tips to get you started:

  • Pop a few canvas bags in your trunk, or glove compartment of your car so that you have them ready whenever you need them. You never know when they’ll come in handy.
  • They may be strong and durable, but don’t forget to give your canvas grocery bags a wash once in a while to avoid any cross contamination with food and to keep that bag in business!

2. Book bag

Remember when you were a kid and you used canvas library bags? Well, you can’t be a kid again, but you can certainly do the latter. The best part about toting a canvas bag around on a regular basis is that it can support a whole range of weights. So if you ever wanted to just pop into the library or grab a few reading materials, you can simply slip it into your tote bag and be on your merry way. Certainly beats a plastic bag. How many times have you found yourself tearing holes in your plastic bags from the sharp edges of books?

3. Beach bag

Afraid to take that Prada tote bag of yours to the beach because you don’t want to get sand in it? Great news. The humble canvas tote bag is your saviour. Because they’re so durable, so cheap and easy to clean there’s no reason why you should be afraid of taking your canvas tote bag to the beach with you.

4. Camera bag

I can vouch for this one. No more bulky camera bags. If you’re just going out and want to bring your camera along without drawing to much attention to yourself or looking like a tourist (or avid camera enthusiast) then simply pop it into your canvas tote bag. They’re strong enough to support the varying weights of cameras.

Tips to get you started:

  • buy yourself a nice lightweight camera insert (they sell them at Crumpler) and you can keep your cameras protected and supported whilst they’re sitting in your canvas bags. These inserts can transform almost any bag into a camera bag!

What are you guys waiting for? Start today and #totewise