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Over 11,000 people signed the petition that was delivered to Parliament House in Melbourne. Plastic bags have been banned for retail purposes already in SA, NT, TAS and the ACT. Similar petitions to ban the plastic bag are also taking place in WA, NSW and QLD. Their aim is to impose an Australia-wide ban on the plastic bag to minimize pollution.
Pollution is a major threat to Australia’s environment. Over four billion plastic bags are used by Australians each year, with 97% of these ending up as landfill. Those that don’t end up as landfill often end up in waterways.
Greenpeace have a campaign aiming to ‘Ban the Bag’. This campaign aims to clean up our oceans. Turtles, seabirds and other sea animals often fall victim to plastic pollution, either ingesting it or being caught it in. Plastic bags are often the culprit.
After a plastic bag ends up as landfill, it can take hundreds of years to break down. During this time, the toxic chemicals that make up the plastic bag can spread into the soil and affect wildlife (WWF, 2016). Multiple instances of woodland animals being found dead due to ingestion or suffocation caused by plastic bags have been recorded (PETA, 2016). However, according to Richard Thompson, Charles Moore, Frederick Saal and Shanna Swan, a lot more research needs to be done on the effects of land plastic pollution. Currently, plastic pollution research predominantly focuses on marine life and ocean pollution (Thompson et al, 2009).
This research shows that marine life is at huge risk. Sea animals often mistake plastic for food (such as jellyfish) and can quickly end up with their airways blocked. Alternatively, they can ingest the plastic, often causing a slow death due to resulting issues. Death rates due to pollution are on the rise for marine life. However, we can all make changes to stop this rise (CSIRO, 2016).
There are numerous recycling options that can be easily achieved to positively impact our environment. These options are low-cost, so that low-income earners such as students are able to get involved. Firstly, reusable bags can be used to carry your groceries, instead of obtaining new plastic bags each time you shop. These bags can be purchased at a low-price from most grocery stores and other retailers. The more people that opt for reusable bags, the less plastic bags there will be turning into waste and pollution.
Secondly, re-use the plastic bags you do receive. Instead of throwing them straight in the bin, they can be reused to carry other items, store goods, or to pick up dog poop. When it is time to finally dispose of your plastic bags, ensure they are binned correctly. If the plastic bag is empty, tie it in a knot to make it less likely for the bag to blow away.
You can help by signing the petition to ‘Ban the Bag’ here: https://act.greenpeace.org.au/efforts/ban-the-bag-1