May 20, 2003

"WE MAY be overwhelmed by

"WE MAY be overwhelmed by environmental catastrophes that seem to occur with alarming regularity," claims the ABC, "but there is a simple way each of us can make a difference."

Halving the ABC's budget would be a good start. Make Phillip Adams trade his SUV for a skateboard. Hell, if we're being "overwhelmed" by "catastrophes", the ABC should cease all operations immediately. Don't they realise the damage they're causing, what with flying journalists all over the planet and producing books and such? Instead, the ABC demands that you take a stand. You must cease to use plastic bags!

Plastic shopping bags have a surprisingly significant environmental impact for something so seemingly innocuous ... In the water, plastic bags can be mistaken for jellyfish by wildlife.

That's why wildlife is so bad at shopping.

Disturbingly, it is claimed that plastic bags are the most common man-made item seen by sailors at sea.

Could be. Then again, they might just be looking at bunches of jellyfish.

Once an animal that had ingested a plastic bag dies, it decays at a much faster rate than the bag. Once the animal has decomposed, the bag is released back into the environment more or less intact, ready to be eaten by another misguided organism.

If it's only misguided organisms dying, then I say to hell with them.

Plastic bags also clog drains and waterways, threatening not only natural environments but also urban ones. In fact, plastic bags in drains were identified as major factors in the severe flooding in Bangladesh in 1988 and 1998.

CNN reports that bags also helped people survive: "In one area, relief workers found families living atop dikes in shelters made from straw and plastic bags." Praise bags!

According to Clean Up Australia, Australians use in excess of 6 billion plastic bags per year. If tied together these bags would form a chain that is long enough to go around the world 37 times.

Well, maybe that's exactly what we're trying to do, art haters.

In September 2002 federal Independent MP Peter Andren and Greens Senator Bob Brown introduced private member's bills into parliament that would put a 25 cent levy on plastic shopping bags, and direct the funds raised to an education program publicising the environmental costs of plastic bags in Australia.

If we assume that plastic bag use would drop by 50% as a result of the levy, this means $15 million would be raised each year solely for bag awareness. Has anyone considered the environmental impact of so vast an education program?

If you don't want to take your bags back to the supermarket to use again next time you buy your groceries, there are a multitude of ways you can use them around the house, limited only by your imagination.

I use them for lining garbage bins.

One thing they should not be used for is lining garbage bins.


If everyone accepted one less plastic bag every time they went shopping, the number of bags used would be reduced substantially.

And the amount of groceries rolling around on the floor would increase hilariously.

There are a range of alternatives to plastic bags. Some retailers save the cardboard cartons that stock is packaged in, so customers can use them to pack their groceries. Others may offer paper bags.

Or jellyfish.

So next time you go shopping, hold your head up proudly as you reuse or refuse a plastic bag. You may not be in a rubber dinghy chasing a whaling boat or pursuing ivory poachers, but you have made a contribution to the future of the planet.

Go and get fu ... I mean, thank you for your kind advice, nice ABC person.

Posted by Tim Blair at May 20, 2003 08:00 PM