England Has Successfully Banned Plastic Bags, When Will We Follow?

In the 80s the plastic bag took over the world because of its convenience and durability. Now, our oceans are polluted and our wildlife suffering. Plastic bags are made to last for hundreds of years, and yet most of the bags we quickly use end up in the environment causing havoc.

Making a positive change can make a real difference

Last October, England began to charge 5 pence (or about 10 Australian cents) for plastic bags at supermarkets in an attempt to reduce pollution and to protect wildlife. It has recently been revealed that through this action, they have managed to reduce the amount of plastic bags handed out by a huge 85%.

England followed Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in employing the strategy of charging consumers for the billions of plastic bags they used each year. Not only has there been a massive reduction of plastic bags being handed out, millions of dollars have been raised through the plastic bag costs and given to charities. This is not just important because of the positive impact on the environment, but because this success could lead to other countries around the world following this action. The success continues the conversation around plastic bags and their effect on the environment, and hopefully will prompt more people to consider giving up plastic bags completely.

We have a plastic bag problem

Research has found that 1 trillion plastic bags are used a year, with over 1 million bags being used per minute. These huge amounts of plastic are hugely detrimental to the environment, as they take up to 1000 years to degrade. Over these years they break up into smaller pieces, and can be mistaken by wildlife as food. (In turn, we ourselves end up consuming our own litter and pollution by eating fish and other animals who have eaten the tiny bits of plastic bags.) Experts say that over 90% of sea birds have consumed plastic, and that this will rise to 99% by 2050. Plastic bags are also contributing to fossil fuel emissions, with 12 million barrels of oil being used to manufacture the 100 billion bags a year used in the United States alone.
Plastic bags pose a huge environmental threat and it is vital that more action is taken around the world to reduce the waste polluting our environment. Plastic bags are made to last hundreds of years, and yet are used for an average of 12 seconds. The convenience of a plastic bag is surely not worth the environment and our wildlife, especially when it is very easy to purchase reusable bags instead of a single use plastic bag that will most likely end up in the environment, in our oceans and even in our food.

We should be embarrassed. It's a disgrace.
- Clean Up Australia managing director Terrie-Ann Johnson to the Sydney Morning Herald

When will we follow?

In Australia, plastic bags have been banned in Tasmania, Northern Territory, South Australia and the ACT. Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales are yet to take action. It was revealed in April that many developing countries are further ahead than Australia, having banned plastic bags completely while Australia remains neutral. In response to this, Clean Up Australia managing director Terrie-Ann Johnson said to the Sydney Morning Herald, ""We should be embarrassed. It's a disgrace."

Here's what you can do:

Hopefully the success in England will prompt Australia, other countries, and people everywhere to take action and finally completely ban this unnecessary product. In the meantime, you can make a difference by going plastic bag free and encouraging others to do the same. You could even upcycle an old t-shirt into a reusable tote, or start a community initiative to go plastic-bag free! Make a difference.

Read this next: How to make reusable fruit and vegetable bags

Learn more about plastic pollution:

Plastic bag free community: a how to guide

3 steps to start living your plastic- free, zero-waste life

Why no one wants to talk about plastic rubbish

7 insane facts about plastic bags

200 000 plastic bags dumped in landfill every hour

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