Friday, 06 July 2018 00:00


how to be plastic free this july

It's time to shop smarter and more sustainably.  

Whether you’ve been an advocate for BYO shopping bag for years, consistently forgotten to BYO when you shop despite your best intentions and ended up having to use single use ones, or blatantly resisted buying or re-using reusable plastic bags, the time has come to fully embrace reusable shopping bags no matter your preference.

It’s likely that by now you will have experienced first hand the fact that single-use plastic bags have been banned across nearly all states of Australian with the Victorian Government announcing it will be legislating against them by the end of this year, leaving just NSW yet to announce legislative changes. Since July 1 Coles and Woolworths have stopped providing free single use bags, even in states not yet affected by legislation (though all stores were apparently giving away reusable bags for the first week to keep shoppers happy and to iron out teething problems with the new system). So if you shop at any of the major supermarkets you either need to BUY a thicker plastic bag (which takes even longer to break down than the free ones), or BYO.

The ban on bags has conveniently and strategically aligned with Plastic Free July which is a month long awareness campaign to discourage the use of single use plastics. Plastic Free July began in 2011 when a single workplace in Perth decided to challenge its staff for just a month to reduce plastic waste. Now it’s a globally recognised charity and foundation with over 2 million people from all over the world committing to reduce their single use plastic this month.

Over the month we’ll touch on a few different ways you can make small changes to your lifestyle and shopping habits to reduce your overall consumption of plastic packaging, but today we’ll just look at plastic shopping bags.

Bring Your Own Bag

The ‘resuable’ ones now available to purchase from Aldi, Coles and Woolies are ok for emergency situations IF you forget your own bags, but really they’re no better than the drab thin grey ones, they might last a few extra uses but ultimately they will take even longer to break down in landfil (oh you know, up to 100 years) for the sake of about 5 minutes of convenience. Bring your own jute, hessian or calico bag or stylish basket to shop with. You can find fashionable designs that have long, strong straps which you can hang over your shoulder ensuring your back and shoulders are better able to support the weight of your shopping plus freeing up your hands. 

But What Will I Line My Bin With?

What’s worse that lining your bin with plastic bags from your grocery shop? Lining it with purchased bags from your grocery shop! Yes the bin might get a bit funky and smelly more often, but previous generations did not have plastic bags to line thier bins with.  It’s not that hard to rinse out your bin once a week with a kettle of boiling water and a couple of drops of tea tree or eucalpytus oil. It’s a small change that will likely take a bit of getting used to but will make a large impact overall if if everyone joins in.   

Buy the Saturday paper once a week (if you don’t already buy the paper) and you’ll have enough paper to line your bin all week long and have enough left over to individually wrap up stinky things for extra protection. Plus you’ll have something to read on your weekend! Bonus!

Worms will help! 

Reduce the amount of food scraps you're throwing away (to reduce methane omissions in landfill and stinky smells in your bin) with a worm farm or compost bin. If you don’t yet have a compost bin or worm farm contact your local council to see if rebates or discounts are available. Many councils are subsidising the cost of these for their local communities as part of their own commitment to reduce food scraps in landfill. Worm farms are great for apartments with a small balcony and a compost bin or a worm farm are fab for houses with a bit more space. Worm farms are also great educational tools for children, teaching them to understand nature’s cycles and learning to look after living creatures. My three year old son loves our worm farm and whenever he asks me to buy him a pet, I remind him we have pet worms!

Not all food scraps are suitable for worms (citrus, onion, garlic, dairy and meat scraps) so of course you need to throw them away. Consider freezing meat scraps and other perishables until it comes time for bin day to reduce the smell and ooze that accompanies food waste.

It's in Your Hands

While the state governments, local councils and supermarkets might be taking steps towards reducing plastic and food waste, ultimately it is up to individual members of the public to change their behaviour and habits. Why don’t you aim to bring your own bags to the shops for the remainder of the month and see for yourself how simple it can be. 

Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.