Plastic Bag-Free Towns in NSW
We all know that taking your reusable shopping bags to the supermarket is a great way to reduce your personal consumption of plastic bags. Going a step further, lightweight plastic bags have been banned in the ACT, Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania in the last five years. However, NSW has some of its own plastic-bag-free towns, which have been going strong for over ten years!
In April 2003, Coles Bay in Tasmania became the first town in Australia to go plastic bag free.
Despite having a population of just 470 people, the town is the gateway to the beautiful Freycinet National Park and sees 180,000 visitors pass through every year. As well as drastically reducing the amount of plastic purchased and sent to landfill, the ban has inspired a sense of local pride in the Coles Bay community, and inspired many tourists through its positive example.
Since then, the NSW towns of Kangaroo Valley, Mogo, Oyster Bay and Huskisson have followed suit, as well as towns across the rest of Australia. In 2012, Huskisson was also the winner of our own Clean Beaches award, demonstrating the real impact that litter prevention, management and education has on local environments.
So why ban the bag?
Yes, they’re convenient in the short term, but plastic bags, along with all single-use plastic, have a huge range of damaging effects on our environment. They take hundreds of years to break down and NEVER truly decompose; in the meantime, they block drains, blow across bushland, and gradually break down into tiny flakes which stay in soil and waterways. One of the most concerning effects is their impact on sea life – floating bags can strangle marine animals, or be mistaken for food and eaten by creatures such as turtles, whales, dolphins and birds.
It’s no surprise that communities want to work together to protect their local environment against the impacts of plastic bags. But turning this into a reality can be tricky, and requires lots of good communication, cooperation and a supportive community.
So congratulations to Kangaroo Valley, Mogo, Oyster Bay and Huskisson, towns which are leading the way for the rest of the state!
Did you know?
- Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down.
- University of Queensland research has found that 30% of turtle deaths in Moreton Bay are caused by the ingestion of plastic debris.
- In 2007, Australians used four billion plastic bags. That’s over 10 million per day, or 200 per person per year.
- 75% of plastic bags are sent to landfill after a single use.
- Approximately 30 to 50 million plastic bags end up as litter on our beaches, streets and parks.