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Embracing the bag ban: how to go green on a budget

plastic bag ban going green budget

Woolworths and Coles have now banned disposable plastic bags. Here’s how to embrace the bag ban, and to save money as well as the planet.

The move away from disposable plastic bags is something to celebrate.

It can take up to 1000 years for plastic to break down, so if Leonardo da Vinci had been swigging from a plastic water bottle when he painted the Mona Lisa back in the early 1500s the bottle still wouldn’t be fully decomposed.

Fast-forward to 2018, and the Woolworths Group alone was handing out 3.2 billion single use plastic bags annually. Some will head to landfill but many end up in waterways.

And with the World Economic Forum estimating that by 2050 the world’s oceans will contain more plastic (by weight) than fish, it’s clearly time for action.

Part of the problem is that plastic is cheap – really cheap. Single use grocery bags are estimated to cost just 3 cents each.

Undoubtedly, banning the bags will save supermarkets a fortune. But that doesn’t mean you have to fork out big bucks to find replacements.

Eco-friendly grocery bags

Both Woolies and Coles sell heavy duty reusable plastic bags for around 15 cents apiece. But why not use the bag ban as a cue to move away from disposable plastics altogether?

Canvas bags are available at Woolies for 99 cents with chiller bags costing $2.49. Coles’s chiller bags will set you back $2.50, with jute (vegetable fibre) bags priced at $3.

A quick shop-around confirms these prices are very competitive but rummage through your linen closet and chances are you have the materials to make bags for next to nothing. Sites such as Sew In Love show how to make grocery bags from old pillowcases.

Or check if Boomerang Bags are available in your area. The bags, which are made from recycled fabric, are free for customers, with the idea being that you return the bag next time you visit the store. A number of IGA supermarkets already stock Boomerang Bags.

Photo: Boomerang Bags

If you re-use plastic shopping bags as bin liners, try wrapping rubbish in old newspaper. Or take a look at the biodegradable corn starch-based bin liners priced from $13.95 for a roll of 52, from Going Green Solutions.

The big supermarkets have not extended the ban on plastic bags to packaging for fruit and vegetables. However, produce like bananas, apples and citrus fruits come in their own perfectly natural packaging and can go straight into your shopping bag.

For other items, consider mesh bags priced at $19.95 for a pack of eight from Onya Life, or just re-use the store’s bags for as long as possible.

The last straw

In a plus for marine health, Woolworths will stop selling plastic straws by the end of 2018. Of the 11 million tonnes of plastic debris that flows into our oceans each year, plastic drinking straws are one of the top culprits, largely because they rarely make it to the recycle bin.

There are eco-friendly alternatives. Check out $7 stainless steel straws from Take 3. Or for a softer touch try bamboo drinking straws. A set of two will set you back $10 through Flora & Fauna.

Join the “keep cup” revolution

Australians love a good cuppa. So much so that we use 100,000 takeaway cups every hour.

According to Sustainability Victoria, that adds up to three billion disposable cups hitting landfill each year. The plastic lids may be recyclable but the cups are usually lined with plastic, and few councils have the facilities to deal with the paper/plastic combination.

The solution is to provide your own cup. Simply hand your favourite mug to the barista or join the “keep cup” revolution. Consumer group Choice road-tested a number of brands and found the KeepCup Original ($14) scored the highest user rating.

Photo: KeepCup

Or pick up a keep cup from the big supermarkets for under $10.

Some cafes offer a discount when you bring your own cup – find one of these Responsible Cafes near you. Remember, keep cups aren’t just good for drinks, they also make handy containers for takeaway soups, smoothies, even fruit salads.

Go a step further by bringing your own containers to food outlets. Invest in a bamboo spork ($2.95 from Shop Naturally) or even edible cutlery, and enjoy zero-waste takeaways and picnics.

Bring the savings home

Food storage at home offers opportunities for recycling too. Clean glass jars make great airtight containers.

Head to the local op shop where pre-loved, super-durable brands like Tupperware are often available for next to nothing. Or invest in microwave-proof containers to cut back on cling wrap.

The bottom line is that it pays to say no to plastic, choose to reuse, and BYO cups and containers when you’re on the go. The environment will be the richer for it, without leaving you worse off financially.

What are your best tips for going green on a budget? Let us know in the comments!

One Comment

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  1. I love the bright colours and beautiful patterns of cloth bags. The idea to use retro pillow cases is awesome.

    Much better for the environment, and also way better than seeing everyone drag around depressing grey plastic sacks.

    Time to put some chintz back in life!

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