FEW things have ignited as much passion in some Australians as the plastic bag ban. But there is light at the end of this messy tunnel.
THEY are a tough breed of shopper on the Molonglo tundra.
For close to seven years, the people of Canberra have lived the experience of bans on free, single-use plastic shopping bags, without serious consequences.
Apart, that is, from the consequence of a cleaner environment.
The amount of plastic consigned to landfill, where it can clog water courses, flora and fauna for roughly eternity, has fallen by at least a third.
And by one survey, just over 70 per cent of ACT voters want the ban to stay, because it makes sense without injuring lifestyles or human rights.
Canberrans have lived, and possibly thrived, through the ordeal of having to remember to take a bag when they shop, or having to pay 15 cents if they forget to.
It might not seem much of a triumph over adversity — and in isolation it isn’t. But compared to the wilting resolve on the issue elsewhere it is of stout pioneering proportions.
It’s a hardiness which cannot be claimed by a small but loud resistance group in states where bag bans have been recently introduced, who caused Coles to backflip on its plastic bag ban for commercial reasons while Woolworths is holding firm.
The intrusion on the lifestyles of the people of Canberra has failed to live up to the fears projected by the easily-disturbed shoppers in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and NSW.
The overwrought reaction down south to supermarket pogroms on plastic is baffling to Canberrans.
Certainly there were scare stories after the Canberra ban began in November, 2011.
One excited newspaper report seriously proposed ACT shoppers would take their business across the border to Queanbeyan in NSW, where no ban or 15-cent charge operated.
Evidence for this consumer border hopping was limited to the forecast of a shop keeper in Queanbeyan, who no doubt wanted to encourage it. Sadly for him, it never happened.
In Victoria they haven’t restricted the fight to such piffling warnings. They have concocted the notion that people might die from having to re-use plastic bags.
The threat, according to newspaper reports, was that contaminated bags would spread disease when re-used, even to the extent of hitting shoppers and check-out workers with El coli infections.
The claims, based on negligible evidence, angered some medical experts and amused others, with few, if any, endorsing them.
It should be noted no one in Canberra has died from re-using shopping bags.
The ACT government surveyed voters in 2012 and 2014 to measure acceptance, or otherwise, of the ban, and found nothing to change the policy.
The proscription, to get the detail established, was on “single-use, lightweight polyethylene polymer plastic bags that are less than 35 microns in thickness”.
The Government further explains: “These are the thin plastic bags with handles that were typically supplied at supermarkets check-outs. The ban does not apply to other bags such as barrier bags for fruit and vegetables.”
The 2014 survey found:
More than 70 per cent of people surveyed did not want the ban overturned;
65 per cent of Canberra grocery shoppers supported the ban for environmental reasons and agreed it had a positive effect on the environment;
Close to 70 per cent of people surveyed thought the ban should be implemented nationally.
They make them tough in the National capital.