Week 11a—Concerns about the grocery bag crisis

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FIG. 1
Piled up discarded plastic bags waiting to be recycled.

I don’t know if you are aware of the fact that we are surrounded by products that are made out of recycled plastic bags. Things like shoes, plastic chairs, pipes, pens and a lot more are made out of reused plastic bags. 854 million plastic bags have been recycled last year and 20 million Australians still use over 3.9 billion plastic checkout bags a year. That’s 10 million a day! Guess what, A person’s use of a plastic checkout bag can be counted in minutes – however long it takes to get from the shops to their homes. However, plastic bags can take between 15 and 1,000 years to break down in the environment. Further, many marine and terrestrial animals are killed by plastic bags that escape from landfill. The best solution to this problem is to use reusable bags that prevent you using plastic bags in the first place.

In fact, in the recycling industry, the type of plastic is what determines whether it is recyclable or not. Researches explain that there are two good rules of thumb when it comes to recycling plastic bags and wrapping. One is that the plastic should stretch a little bit (by using your thumb) and the other is that it should be clear or light/translucent. However, some plastic film, such as Saran Wrap and Cling Wrap, are actually made from PVC and are not recyclable.

So should we put in any surcharge for the plastic bags since so far it is free to use it in Australia? In one corner are the environmentalists, who say the abundance of plastic bags in the trash has created a “great garbage patch,” a huge chunk of non-biodegradable plastic that is swirling around the Pacific Ocean. Plenty of people keep bags in their cars but forget to bring them in the store with them, but faced with the possibility of paying extra for groceries, people would be much more likely to remember. In the other corner is the plastics industry, who see this more as a 20-cent “tax” on plastic bags. There’s also the added concern of which government bureaucracy would oversee the surcharge and, if none are able, if a new agency would have to be created. Besides, says the plastics industry, these bags only make up less than 1 percent of the city’s garbage, so our efforts would be better used in other matters.

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FIG. 2 Schematic diagram of plastic bag recycling.

Here is the advice for those who don’t have time to reinterpret artistically plastic materials, return your bags back to the grocery store for recycling. Most stores have a container to take these bags back and recycle them for you! Consider no longer accepting plastic bags. The more that you continue to use the bags, the more stores assume you want them. By bringing your own bags with you, and by refusing plastic bags, you send a message that they’re no longer wanted. For those who is saving and have a confidence in his craft, you can consider transforming them into useful as well as creative stuffs with your imagination.

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FIG. 3 Examples of reusing plastic bags

Reference

Architecture art design, ‘25 ideas of how to recycle plastic bags’, viewed 3 June 2015, <http://www.diyprojectsworld.com/25-creative-ideas-for-recycling-plastic-bags.html>

Kara DiCamillo, 2013, ‘Recycling (the Other) Plastic Bags’, viewed 3 June 2015, <http://recyclenation.com/2013/10/recycling-plastic-bags>

Courtney, 2009, ‘Would You Support a Grocery Bag Surcharge?’ , viewed 3 June 2015, <http://thegreenists.com/its-complicated/would-you-support-a-grocery-bag-surcharge/4281>

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