Profiting from the ‘war on waste’

I rarely watch commercial TV and almost never during the morning, but today I did, and it made me hopping mad. I don’t know the name of the show as I only tuned in when the panel started arguing about shopping bags, but essentially, one guy was being very vocal about how great the new ‘multi use’, plastic shopping bag initiative was. Another guy was making the point that it was a pointless exercise because the bags were still made of plastic AND Woolworths was now charging for them as well.

I don’t have a picture of the new, you-beaut plastic shopping bags [because I refuse to buy any], however I think most of us know what they look like. They’re thicker and look suspiciously like the bags we used to get shoes and other jazzy apparel in.

Yes, these bags are a bit bigger and yes, they are a bit stronger too, but they’re still plastic. Worse, they’re made of a plastic that is even harder to get rid of than the so-called single-use bags. I do have a picture of those:

They are ugly, and a menace and impossible to recycle…but they can be re-used. I use at least some of mine as rubbish bin liners in the kitchen [in Nillumbik we have to sort waste into 3 bins]. I also use them to pick up dog poop and other nasty things, thereby saving on plastic gloves as well. At the end of the day, however, these plastic shopping bags still end up in landfill, so I’m all in favour of getting rid of them. The big problem is: what do we replace them with?

Greenies bring their own heavy duty shopping bags which look something like this:

These are fine, in theory, but hands up how many of you forget to take them with you when you go shopping?

I have about 10 of these stupid bags – in the house, in the boot, even on the back seat of the car. D’you think I remember to take them? Nope.

“I just need to pop into the supermarket for milk and eggs…”

Yeah right. I’ve yet to leave a supermarket without at last four bags of unplanned necessities. And you guessed it…they’re in grey plastic shopping bags.

It’s not that I don’t want to do the right thing for the environment, I do. But I’d really love to know why this debate has been hijacked by the supermarkets and the plastic bag manufacturers?

Am I the only old[er] person who remembers string bags that scrunch up into next to nothing? And how about those heavy duty paper shopping bags?

I admit paper bags don’t last as long as the plastic ones, old or new, but when paper becomes unusable, it can be recycled, or used to start a fire, or thrown into the compost where it really will decompose. In fact, if we’re talking about paper, how about using up some of our recycled paper to make paper bags? All kinds of paper bags. What’s the point of zeroing in on plastic shopping bags when almost every single items that goes in those bags is also wrapped in yet more plastic?

Can’t be done? Bull$hit. From memory, the green grocer in Eltham [next to Coles] provides customers with the option of using small paper bags instead of clear plastic bags. And IGA in Warrandyte is selling heavy duty shopping bags made from paper. Each bag costs 10c,Β  and is surprisingly durable. Wet things will put a hole in the bottom of the bag, but for them, you can use these:

The dark blue plastic lump next to the cup-and-saucer is a plastic shopping bag. Yes, I know, but bear with me. I bought 2 of them a couple of days ago from the Eltham 2 Dollar shop. I’d gone in there to ask about old-fashioned string bags [they are trying to order some in for me], and decided to make do with these tiny plastic ones in the interim.

When you open them out, they look like this:

Each one of these bags can take a heck of a lot of shopping, yet will fold up into a package small enough to fit into a pocket. And that’s exactly where I keep mine, in the pockets of my hooded winter jacket. As I wear this jacket whenever I leave the house, it means I now have two re-usable shopping bags with me at all times. No more old lady memory. If I pop into a supermarket for milk and eggs, I’ll always have a bag to put them in.

Oh, and one more thing, when you shop with a trolley, why put fruit and veg into clear plastic bags? Small things like fresh peas or green beans I can understand, but apples, potatoes, lettuce etc can sit quite happily in the trolley without any packaging at all. And once you’ve paid for them, they can all get thrown into a shopping bag. If you’re worried about loose fruit and veg falling out of the shopping bag, just tie the handles.

And people…there is no excuse for buying fruit and veg in polystyrene ‘trays’ with plastic wrap over the top. Seriously.

I’m all for the war on waste, but I fear it’s become a trendy ‘fad’ that will disappear after a few months of inconvenience. The problem is real and has to be tackled realistically. And that means there is no room for purists. Convenience will always be an issue. Poor memory will be one as well. We need to address the worst case scenario and find solutions that everyone can live with. String bags are one. Tiny, foldup plastic bags are another. Durable cloth bags and paper bags should be readily available as well.

The one thing that should not be promoted is heavy duty plastic because it’s worse than the problem it’s trying to solve. And no, supermarkets should not be making a profit out of our desire to make this world a better place for our kids and their kids.

Get real Australia



About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

24 responses to “Profiting from the ‘war on waste’

  • Dr Bob Rich

    Thank you for deciding to follow my blob, Bobbing Around. I see from this discussion that we do have a lot in common.
    When I was a kid, there were no supermarkets, and no takeaway bags. You brought your own, and that was that. My mother had what looked like string fishing nets with hexagonal holes. You could fit two into a pocket, yet one would hold a huge amount.
    I wonder if someone still knows how to make them…


  • Bette A. Stevens

    We reuse/recyle almost everything including plastics regularly. I have my carry bags in the trunk, but sometimes forget to use them. When I do, I use the store bags for packing material and small trash can liners.


    • acflory

      Hi Bette! We try to reuse/recycle as much as possible too. Much of it has become second nature now but I admit I’m still struggling with the ‘remembering’ part. lol
      I guess that’s just habit too. πŸ™‚


  • D. Wallace Peach

    I share your outrage, Andrea. n Portland, OR, there’s a plastic bag ban! They just aren’t available at check-out. After a few weeks, people adjusted with no trouble. πŸ˜€ (If they forget to bring their bags, they can buy paper).


  • anne54

    I rarely accept the single use plastic bags either. However, I also do use them as kitchen bin liners. So now I am in a quandary….do I buy more plastic bags in the form of manufactured bin liners? That seems to defeat the purpose. And you are right to wonder about the biodegradability of these bags. Those older paper bags from the supermarkets would be perfect, so BRING BACK PAPER BAGS! Most of my wettish things, like veggie peelings go into the compost and worm farm, so the paper bag would be my solution.
    By the way I have noticed that some places have “Boomerang Bags” available. They are made of material, often home made, hung in shops and you use them when you have forgotten your bag. You can return them at a later date. No cost, no deposit, they just cycle through the community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Ugh, thanks for reminding me! I have a couple of boomerang bags in the car. I keep forgetting to return them because I rarely manage to get to the Sunday farmer’s market in Eltham. 😦



    It’s a wonderful opportunity to start a new & useful collecting hobby! We’ve been byo-ing carry bags for years, amassing an array of cotton carry bags that are washable and multi-purpose. Many local enterprises are now making them, so it’s a great way to support local, handmade. I keep 2 fold up bags in my handbag, and a selection of cotton bags in both cars. BYO reusable bags will catch on but in the meantime it’s entertaining to watch shoppers without juggling their armful of purchases πŸ˜„


    • acflory

      Oh you meanie! That could be me. :p
      Actually, I used to have a bright red shopping jeep thingie. You know the kind that old ladies used to pull behind them, full of shopping?
      I loved that damn thing but then I got to the point where I couldn’t lift it into the boot any more.
      I wish they’d hurry up and make handyman robots. I need one to put out the rubbish, lift and carry shopping, change light bulbs and mow the damn block. -sigh-


  • Widdershins

    We have cloth bags everywhere …in the truck, our bags, bicycle panniers … and a few black ones doing double duty as tater and onion holders. πŸ˜€


  • The Pink Agendist

    When we first arrived here I noticed the fashion was the *cabas*, I got one right away and use it for shopping all the time. You’re allowed to take them into the supermarkets and use them as a basket…


    • acflory

      Just one??? I’ve learned to use the smaller trolleys instead of the big ones, but they’re still overflowing. Seriously, how do you manage?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist

        For food I shop either for the day or at most for two days. Shopping for big stuff we do a couple of times a month, and that involves the car and a trolley (and Mike!) πŸ˜€


        • acflory

          Aaah! I was trying to work out how you’d get a big pack of toilet paper into that bag. πŸ˜€
          I used to do huge shops and put things in the freezer. But we ended up wasting to much stuff that when the freezer finally died, I didn’t replace it.
          Now, I buy enough for 2-3 days max and I plan my menus so nothing goes to waste. It’s more work in one way and really liberating in another. The thing I like most about this new way of cooking is that we always eat our vegetables and salads while they’re fresh.


  • DawnGillDesigns

    So true. I have a few linen / cotton tote bags I can roll up into tiny spaces, and I have one in each of my handbags (by handbag, I mean messenger style bag I use when I leave the house to carry my wallet and emergency items, like my phone, business cards, tissues, lipsalve, sunglasses, tampons and the like; not a posh and pricey IT bag!) It saves me for all those times when I get caught out. My mother, however is a sucker for those ‘bag for life’ thick plastic bags, insisting that the nice, hand made from local artists cotton totes I buy her are ‘too nice to use’ . I despair.


  • Sue Vincent

    I bought myself a big hippy-style fabric handbag, without which I go nowhere. I carry little more than my purse and keys in it…so it does duty perfectly as a daily shopping bag.

    Liked by 1 person

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