How to prevent plastic use in your home
Plastic bag consumption is getting out of control. According to a 2013 update from the New South Wales Parliamentary Research Service, between the years 2002-2007 plastic bag use fell from 5.95 billion bags to 3.93 billion. While this does show some improvement, which may be due to retail incentives and governmental changes to reduce plastic bag use, this is still a staggering figure.
A 2007 study in Australia found that once used, 84 per cent of plastic bags end up in landfill sites, meaning that although new bag usage may have declined, Australians are still facing the considerable challenge of how to store or safely dispose of carrier bags. While the jury is still out on the potentially harmful gases and other substances that are released during the disposal of plastic bags, and the average bag taking 1,000 years to naturally break down, this is a problem that needs to be dealt with urgently.
Although many Australians are aware of the need to cut down on plastic bag usage, what are some viable options to take the place of plastic in your home?
According to an independent 2012 review of the Plastic Shopping Bags (Waste Avoidance) Act 2008, there has been "a perceived reduction of lightweight single-use plastic bags in landfill and households", suggesting that the issue is greater than widely recognised. One possible solution to this? Banish plastic bags from your cupboards completely! Many homeowners find plastic bags taking up space unused and unwanted in drawers, under sinks or other valuable household space – often saved to be used again but more often than not relegated to the bin.
Instead, seek out green alternatives to carry your shopping in, such as tote bags and other environmentally friendly products. These bags are often made from natural fabrics such as canvas or wicker and provide a sustainable option to planet-harming plastic. Not only for the weekly shop, these bags have often become a way of making a strong fashion statement and their durable, long-lasting texture means they won't split or break easily.
In a Clean Up Australia publication, it is estimated that plastic bag consumption across the globe stands between 500 million and 1 trillion every year. This is an alarming figure, especially considering that retailers only began using these type of carriers in the 1970s, meaning that the plastic problem has exploded in fewer than four decades. This potentially damaging material has also expanded into other areas of the home, including food containers.
While it may be seemingly quick and cheap to buy small plastic bags to store sandwiches and other food items in, this is really an unnecessary expense in the long-term. When you buy plastic bags to store your sandwiches in, it's highly unlikely you'll use them more than once – meaning consumers are literally throwing money away!
A more sustainable alternative would be to use reusable sandwich wraps, which are a green, hygienic way to store your snacks.