A list of questions we are often asked at Plastic Bag Free Victoria

+ What is the big deal about plastic bags?

Every year, over fifty million plastic bags end up in our natural environment having devastating effects on marine life, water systems and landscapes. This is pretty crazy when the average plastic bag is used for just 12 minutes yet can last for around 1000 years! Plastic bags break up into smaller plastic pellets so they never really leave our ecosystems. This means that every single plastic item that you have ever used still exists today. We can’t keep adding more plastic to the ecosystem and we have so many options available instead of plastic bags. It's time to ban plastic bags.

+ What is a reusable bag, and what are the benefits?

Reusable bags:

  • are designed to be used many times over
  • are stronger and more durable than limited-use plastic bags
  • can hold more goods than a limited-use plastic bag
  • include bags made from jute, hemp, cotton, recycled PET and non-woven polypropylene ('green bags')

+ What is a limited-use plastic bag?

Limited-use plastic bags include:

  • Lightweight High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Plastic Bags less than 35 microns thick, such as those distributed in many supermarkets.
  • Plastic bags ≥ 35 microns in thickness, made of low density polyethylene (LDPE), typically distributed by department stores.

Limited-use plastic bags are made from ethylene (a by-product of oil or gas refining), and some include contents from recycled industrial waste sources. However despite this, life cycle analysis indicate that they have a much higher overall environmental impact compared to reusable alternatives

+ What will a ban on limited use plastic bags mean?

Limited use plastic bags (single-use lightweight plastic bags and thicker department store style plastic bags) will be banned across all retail outlets in Victoria. You will need to take a reusable bag with you when shopping or utilise a produce box available from most grocers.

+ What other Australian states have plastic bag bans?

South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and the Northern Territory all have state wide bans in place and there is movement in NSW to ban single use plastic bags. We have been very slow in Victoria and a ban on plastic bags has fallen off the agenda since it was pledged in 2008 that the state would take action.
Across Victoria there have been some towns and markets who operate plastic bag free. Torquay, Warburton, Frankston, Victoria Market, Veg Out Market St Kilda and all Melbourne Farmers' Markets are plastic bag free

+ What other nations have plastic bag bans?

Across the world more and more cities and nations are introducing bans on plastic bags. In Rwanda it is illegal to bring plastic bags into the country and the streets are some of the cleanest in the world. Up until the 1950s Australian household shopped and thrived without plastic bags. It's time for Victoria to catch up and ban all limited use plastic bags.

+ Are degradable or biodegradable plastic bags okay to use?

Unfortunately biodegradable bags are still a single use option and require oxygen in order to decompose. When our rubbish reaches the landfill it is an anaerobic environment, meaning there is no oxygen to help breakdown the bags, and instead methane gas is produced. Methane is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and our current environmental problems.

+ What bags should I be using?

Cotton, hemp, baskets, backpacks, cardboard boxes, your hands (especially when buying just one or two items!), cotton string bags. Anything that can be reused is a good option!
We have found that keeping a small cotton or string bag in our handbags is good for that spontaneous trip to the shops, or keeping some in the car or by the door helps to remember to take them shopping.

+ Is recycling plastic bags an option?

It is always best to refuse or reuse rather than rely on recycling. Non-renewable resources including fossil fuels are required to make plastic bags. The amount of energy required to make just 12 plastic bags can power a car for 1.5km!

Most Victorian Councils do not accept plastic bags at curbside recycling, however if you have a cupboard full of plastic bags at home, many Coles, Woolworths and IGA supermarkets have a drop-off point for your bags. Currently just 3% of the 1.016 billion HDPE (high density polyethylene) bags are recycled in Victoria and are instead ending up in landfill, our local ecosystems and the marine environment. Plastic bags are the fifth most littered item in Victoria. Stopping the distribution of plastic bags is the only solution.

+ What will I use for a bin liner?

The simplest answer is to not use one! If you compost at home you will generally have very little wet waste that needs to go in the bin. Other options include putting a couple of sheets of newspaper at the bottom of the bin or using other packaging you have in the kitchen such as bread bags or rice packets. Get creative!

+ How do I pick up my dog poo?

Yes it's true that councils can give away biodegradable doggie waste bags like they have in other states but we are advocating a shift to reusing what you already have. Try using a piece of newspaper, pooper scooper, other packaging that you have in the home such as bags from bread, chip packets, pasta packets… anything that stands in the way between you and the poo!

+ What can I use for my fruit and vegetables?

Let your vegies roam free range! If you do require a barrier bag, invest in a reusable one from Boomerang Bags, Onya, ReChusable or The Fregie Sack.

+ What can I do to support the campaign for a Victoria-wide ban on limited use plastic bags?

  1. Sign the petition
  2. Choose to reuse and say no to limited-use plastic bags
  3. Volunteer! Contact us at info@plasticbagfreevictoria.org for more information


Have another question? Email us at info@plasticbagfreevictoria.org