Plastic Bags Bandwagon

August 7, 2018

I call it the plastic bag bandwagon. Everyone has jumped on it; some retail supermarkets are copping it more than others not to mention plastic packaging and every other daily plastic sale from retailers.  It is not that simple and sounds like the old ‘cart before the horse’ theory.

I remember the up-roar and ongoing saga about cutting down trees when paper bags were used in stores. Somewhere in between all this, ‘goodbye paper bags’ and ‘hello plastic bags’. According to the experts we may have saved on trees but now we are choking our sea life.  What’s next?

Something can be said for the good old days. As a young girl my mother and I would shop at the local general store. She would take her large wicker shopping basket to carry the items home. Most of them were packaged on the spot. For example flour was stored in large wooden lidded bins placed against the shop wall behind the counter and scooped into brown paper bags to be weighed. The top of the bag was rolled down and tied with hessian string or secured with Bear tape. Any pre-packaged items were in tins or paper wrapped but most times it was loose items packed at time of purchase. Even biscuits were weighed by the pound and stored in paper bags.

On the down side I thought that anything dispersed into the atmosphere would magically filter out and disappear into the eternal universe only to later discover it accumulates and hovers in our atmosphere forever. I thought that the salt water would magically wash away the sewer as it was piped into the sea. I thought our rubbish was emptied into a big hole, out of sight out of mind. I didn’t understand how dangerous pollutes would leak through our soils into our water basins to affect our drinking water.  I thought that it was okay to pour cooking oil down the kitchen sink drain as long as you ran hot water long enough for it to melt and dissipate. The same with cold water to dispose of paint down our garden drains.

How ignorant we were but so were our leaders, teachers, advisors and the general public. We didn’t realise what we were doing or the long term consequences.  We did what we did; we knew nothing else at the time and today rectification is a work in progress.

However as babies of post-war parents we were taught to be mindful of wastefulness. Don’t waste food; use left over’s from the night before. Bubble and squeak patties tasted great the next day. We reused things as much as possible and hand me down clothes a norm.  Tins were used for storage, paper bags for creative kids play or used in the fire place to light the dining room fires. Hessian sugar bags were fabulous for cubby house walls or dress-ups. There was no such thing as disposable nappies; we had specific buckets to soak the soiled cotton nappies before washing. The introduction of nappy liners was fabulous for flushing babies number two’s down the toilet.

Environment issues weren’t an issue because it wasn’t discussed. For baby boomers it was a slow infiltration of awareness that has taken years to understand and embrace as a serious topic.  No one taught us about the real effects of our habits. Pollution, disposal of waste products, recycling, protection of our natural assets, protection of our species, weren’t a consideration even though ostracised scientists were trying to tell us something.  

How do we go about future fixes for retrospective damage? It is difficult, complicated, and expensive. Everyone has an opinion and many don’t care.

Consumers could also take on more accountability rather than point the finger. Retailers respond to satisfy consumer demands. We are in a world driven by perfection and it has become the norm.  Why do we have perfectly shaped fresh fruit and vegetables, identical in colour, symmetrically aligned on angled shelves for easy picking? When we were kids, home grown and shop front vegetables would never look this way. However as today’s consumer we expect better looking shelf items, hence genetically modified food.

The latest emotional hype is the “Little Shop” marketing campaign by one of our supermarkets chains i.e collecting miniature shop products.  Everyone seems to be going on about it however it is not that different from the fun days of digging deep into the Cornflakes packet to retrieve a plastic toy. Nor the purchase of plastic Yowies or Kinder Surprises embedded in an egg of chocolate. It’s endless. There will always be collectors and there will always be marketing campaigns.  

What is the right thing to do? Most of us want to know the answer to this question and there is a big ‘?’ to a solution.  Theories have differed for centuries, trial and error a given, there is no one quick fix and we are all to blame.

Plastic pollution is only part of the global pollution challenges. Embedded behaviours and attitudes are tough obstacles.

On a local level I would prefer to focus on waste management plans, enterprising recycling initiatives, school education for kids at kindergarten level, active parental consciousness, improved environmental guidelines for the public and a continued drive for political and financial backing. It’s an interminable battle.

I used my plastic supermarket bags as kitchen bin liners and now buy plastic liners in rolls from Bunning’s and other stores. What’s the alternative?

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