March 23, 2008

Magic plastic

It’s becoming far too difficult to keep up with the hyper-ridiculous claims made by supposedly independent and rigorously researched reports.

Honestly, whether environmentalism in general, or climate change in particular, the numbers and predictions never stack-up to anything resembling objective reality (yeah, old fashioned concept, that one), yet the media diligently report absurdities as if quoting from Baby Jesus.

I fear I will not live long enough to see an end to this global credulity.

Are we really such gobemouches as to believe that Australians used 4 billion plastic bags last year? That Australians used an extra one billion plastic bags, last year - a whopping 40% increase? Or that the weight of those bags in land fills was 22 million tonnes? That’s some awfully, awfully, awfully heavy plastic we’re carrying about our persons.

I'm damned sure that I didn't use my per head of population allocation of one point something tonnes worth of plastic bags.

I’ve always believed that an Australian billion is one million million, not the lesser American billion, which is only one thousand million (they cheat, I guess it makes the rich people feel good, so Britain is soon going to go the same way, which probably means Australia will too).

So, an alleged 4 billion plastic bags used by Australians last year, with a population of 21 million:
that would be 190,000 or so bags for every man woman and child in the country, including all the people who refuse to use plastic bags, or have at least cut down their use, in lieu of taking reusable carry bags when shopping, (which I do, btw, pretty much 100% of the time), nor does it encompass the myriad of goods that are packed into paper style bags, of which I would have a stunning collection, if I kept them all, and many more if I accepted them all (which I don't) - many stores do use paper, not plastic.

If we (incorrectly) use the American idea of one “billion”, it would be 190 plastic bags per annum for every person, which would be 3.6 plastic bags for every person each week – hardly what you’d call a plastic bag pig-out.

"Plastic carry bag use has skyrocketed in the past 12 months, despite repeated industry claims that fewer bags are being used by shoppers.

A confidential draft report prepared for the Federal Government shows that up to a billion more bags were handed out by supermarkets and shops last year than in 2006, an increase of more than 40%.

"It blows out of the water once and for all the misinformation being put out by the retail industry on this issue," said Planet Ark Founder Jon Dee. "It shows that the voluntary approach for banning plastic bags has been a total failure."

The Government has come under attack for considering an option to impose a $1 levy on bags at the check-out and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was forced this week to rule out a levy on bags.

"We remain committed to forging a sensible solution to protecting our environment from the impacts of plastic bag litter," Mr Garrett said yesterday."

Even if plastic bag use has increased by some small or even large amount, and given population growth, that in itself wouldn't be an outrageous finding, it would tend to suggest, unhysterically, that we plucky little Aussies are not nearly as fussed by environmental concerns as *we* claim.

Maybe we just like the sound of our voices droning on about how *concerned, alert, alarmed and perpetually anxious* with are. Maybe we're obsessed with creating the perception of "fighting above our weight" when it comes to both emitting and reducing CO2s. Maybe we're gigantic hypocrites. Maybe we have all drastically reduced our use of plastic bags, but that doesn't support the political agenda - create a crisis and cure it with an unnecessary financial or social hardship, so that the pain makes if feel worthwhile, ultimately achieving nothing at all.

Drastic plastic bag use ...


  1. Why are'nt we using bio-degradable plastic bags Caz? Is is because they are costly?
    Sometime ago after Rory completed a job he was given a great big box of 100% degradable bags.(from the client)The writing on the bags stated this.
    Other writing on the bag included:
    "An initiative of the City Of Perth to help protect the environment."

    Btw I recycle my plastic bags.
    They really are good for bin liners as well, as I'm sure many people will attest to.

  2. One of my very first posts was about that very thing Kath, it was one of numerous matters that prompted me to start blogging ... three years later, fat lot of good that's done, 'ey? :-)

    More Bags II – The green bags that aren’t

  3. NB: as alerted by Mr & Mrs Drunkablog, who have been slaving over their fingers and toes in Denver, even the "40% increase" is bogus.

    If the increase was 40%, then plastic baggy use for last year would have been 3.5 billion (alleged), not 4 billion (alleged).

  4. That was a good thoughtful post Caz.(I wasn't around back then, now you can't get rid of me, tee hee!)
    Still relevant.
    It's a damn shame more people are not aware of the alternatives.

  5. Anyone remember Brian White (of 2UE fame prior to his unfortunate death)?

    As a good journo he viewed "bio-degradable" plastic bags with a decent dose of suspicion. He kept a couple on the shelf of his studio at 2UE for near on two years. To the end he kept testing them and revealed that they still held water and showed no ill effects whatsoever. He predicted they'd well outlast him.

    How correct he was.

  6. Very interesting Father, but a shelf or a draw is not the same as being bull-dozed into landfill or exposed to sunlight, which also breaks down waste.

    Wouldn't call it scientific, as I'd have to verify that the bags on the shelf were corn-starch, or some other bona fide "biodegradable" variety.

  7. Our local supermarket had signs up yesterday saying they were phasing out plastic bags and introducing those re-useable green bags that Australia has had for a few years now. Ho-hum - so we are catching up with Oz.

    What's interesting though is the price of these re-useable bags: €0.03, that is, about 5 cents in Aussie money.

    Yes, the market in France is bigger than Australia but that the green bags (very similar by their look to the Aussie ones) can be offered to the consumer for about 5 cents while I recell them being about a dollar each back in Adelaide suggests someone is making a pretty penny off getting rid of those bloody useful and not-so-polluting plastic bags.

  8. Yes, they're still a dollar here Dylan, no surprise.

    Doesn't matter what type of shop you walk into (deli, chemist, fabric shop - yeah, think about that last one) you can buy the things all over the place, in all kinds of colors now too - Coles had purple ones the other week.

    Guess the extra .95 cents is for the shop branding - those big white stamps must cost a fortune.

  9. Indeed Caz: they were in the sunlight. The shelf was the window.

    They, in no way, degraded.

    Perhaps they were "mark I"?

  10. Biodegradable is not synonymous with instant self-destruction, hey?

    A few years, is biodegradable, many thousands of years, by comparison, is not?