Even Without Government Pressure, Australian Plastic Bag Use Dropped 80% in Just 90 Days

Over 1.5 billion single-use plastic bags have been kept out of trash, landfills, ocean coasts and waterways in Australia in only three months.

A sea turtle shown clutching a single-use plastic bag that floated into his mouth. This is unfortunately when some plastic bag waste ends up -- and it kills.

Besides contributing to large landfill waste even when thrown away properly, plastic bags have been proven to clog critical sewer and storm drain systems as well as to harm or even kill ocean creatures of all kinds when they finally make their way into lakes, rivers, streams and the oceans.

That is why the recent statistic just announced by the National Retail Association is so meaningful.

According to the Association, just three months after full bans by Coles and Woolworths, the two largest supermarket chains in Australia, there has been an over 80 percent cutback in the nation’s overall consumption of single-use plastic bags.

That works out to an estimated 1.5 billion bags kept out of waste dumps and the water ways.

At first the transition away from such bags did not go easily. Customers forced either to bring their own bag (BYO-bag) or buy a reusable one at a cost of 15 Australian cents (equivalent to 11 cents in the United States) were not happy. The reaction was so strong that for awhile Coles gave out free reusable plastic bags, as an incentive to save the environment.

Most of Australia has already moved to ban or tax single-use plastic bags, as a means of encouraging consumers to bring their own. The only place in the nation which does not have such a law is New South Wales, the most populous state in the country.

Although the moment to ban single-use plastic bags is growing around the world, there are still only 32 countries which have such laws on the books. More of these laws are in process, though, and could help out even more in keeping these bags away from either landfill sites or open waters.

As David Stout, a spokesperson for the National Retail Association, said in a recent interview commenting about the movement to get rid of these kinds of bags, “We’re still seeing a lot of small to medium bags being used especially in the food category.” He indicated further that, even with retailers actively phasing out plastic bags themselves, he still supports bans on the bags to get the last ones out of circulation forever.