- Single-use plastics
Life cycle analysis of plastic bag alternatives (2009)
South Australia has become the first jurisdiction in Australia to enact regulations banning lightweight single-use checkout bags (with some material based exceptions). The ban was enforced from 4 May 2009. The primary intention of the ban is to encourage the mass adoption of reusable bags over single-use plastic bags.
In 2007, Australians used 3.93 billion lightweight single use high density polyethylene (HDPE) bags. 2.96 billion of these came from supermarkets, while the others were used by; fast food restaurants, department stores, fashion retailers, convenience stores, liquor outlets and other retailers.
The current rate of plastic shopping bag use and disposal is a significant concern within the Australian community. A study carried out by Roy Morgan in August 2004 found that 93% of Australians questioned were concerned about the impact that plastic bags had on the environment, and it seems reasonable to believe that this concern has not decreased more recently.
The over consumption of plastic bags is an unnecessary use of resources, such as energy, water and materials. Plastic bags as litter create visual pollution problems and can have harmful effects on aquatic and terrestrial organisms. In recent years, the consumption of plastic bags has generally trended downward, except for 2007, when a rebound in consumption occurred. This suggests that the behavioural change efforts by governments, major retailers, consumers and environmental organisations, are reaching a saturation point, and any further reductions in plastic bag consumption will require new approaches.
LCA of shopping bag alternatives Hyder Consulting Pty Ltd-ABN 76 104 485 289. The switch away from lightweight single use HDPE carry bags has led to increased use in alternative forms of shopping bags manufactured from a wide range of materials. As a result, there are many different types of shopping bags being introduced into the Australian market at present, resulting in confusion for consumers and retailers about their environmental impacts and benefits.