What’s wrong with plastic bags?

Plastic bags are seen as a symbol of a wasteful society as they are a form of packaging that is often not essential. Plastic bags are a problem for various reasons:

  • As a single use disposable form of packaging, plastic bags are typically used for a short period of time but take hundreds of years to break down in landfill (National Plastic Bags Working Group, Report, page 5).
  • Plastic bags are an extremely visible and unsightly component of litter. If plastic bags continue to be used, the number of bags littering the environment will increase over time. Local and State Governments around Australia spend more than $200 million per year picking up litter.
  • The production of plastic bags accounts for some 20,000 tonnes of plastic polymer derived from non-renewable resources. While plastic bags can be recycled, only a tiny proportion of plastic bags are collected and reprocessed.
  • Plastic bags are considered to be a 'free' commodity, but the cost to households of $10 to $15 per year is added to the price of goods that they purchase.

Marine life mistake plastic bags for food.

  • The Sydney Morning Herald (27/12/2008) has reported that an endangered hawksbill turtle was put down after it swallowed plastic and was found sick on a beach at Tomakin, near Batemans Bay in NSW.
  • A crocodile died after its capture off Magnetic Island in November 2008. Wildlife authorities found the crocodile had ingested 25 plastic shopping and garbage bags, a plastic wine cooler bag and a rubber float. These items prevented the crocodile from digesting his food so he died of starvation.
  • Below - Penguin found on a beach at Troubridge Island