Generating electricity from wind, hydro and nuclear: undoubtedly controversial topics. But plastic bags? Now surely there's something nearly everyone (except retailers) can agree is a bad thing and should be banned?

Apparently not (unless the author has ulterior motives): www.lowcarboneconomy.com/community/_links_and_resources/786

The story at this link tells how plastic bags aren't proven to harm wildlife or the environment, that banning them disrupts the recycling chain and that the heavy duty reusable plastic bags are just as bad.

Personally, I don't buy any of these arguments (in order that they appear in the article):

Argument: Banning plastic bags will not reduce the amount of things people buy.

Answer: No, but the significance for me is to make people think about what they're buying, how it is packaged and how they can transport it around without incurring unnecessary packaging waste (and expense) at every step of the consumer journey.

Argument: "Productivity Commission did a cost-benefit analysis in 2006 on the merits or otherwise of plastic bags, and found they comprise just 2 per cent of litter..."

Answer: Just two per cent of litter by what measure? Plastic bags are very light and take up very little space, but that doesn't mean they're not unsightly and bad for the environment. Even two per cent of litter is an awful lot of litter.

Argument: "...and it was not certain if they damaged animals"

Answer: Tell me when they are certain they do not damage animals, terrestrial or marine, and I will start to listen to this as an argument. Not being sure of something is not a defence.

Argument: "plastic bags may be eco-friendly in solid landfill, because of their "stabilising qualities, leachate minimisation and minimising [of] greenhouse-gas emissions""

Answer: This sounds to me like trying to extoll the virtues of bits of litter that don't decompose: i.e. will be with us as litter in the environment for a long time! Surely it would be better not to produce the litter in the first place than to produce it and then bury it for a very long time: handing on the legacy of our disposable society to our great grandchildren to worry about?

Argument: "Three-quarters of us recycle the bags as bin-liners, pooper-scoopers or carry bags, thus confining stuff that might otherwise become litter."

Answer: So the answer to our waste problems are to produce more disposable plastic bags to contain all the waste? Surely not producing so much waste in the first place is a better plan? Bin-liners can be avoided by reducing the amount of disposable products and packaging we buy and by recycling and reusing what we must buy. Train your dog to defaecate down storm drains instead of picking up the mess with a plastic bag! As for carry bags, how often can a plastic bag be reused before it tears? Much better to use a purpose-designed eco-friendly carry bag that can be reused and then recycled.

Aside: I won't argue that misrepresentation of data on animal deaths and cigarette butt/fishing net waste is acceptable, but let's not distract ourselves from the problems that plastic bags DO cause.

Argument: "Whose fault is it that the bag was a disaster, what was the customer's duty of care, and who should compensate the poor fish-and-chips shop owner for his sticky floor?"

Answer: If the woman had bought her own reusable bag, this wouldn't have happened, the retailer wouldn't have had to buy in cheap plastic bags from China and hopefully the whole situation would have been avoided.

Argument: "The tragedy is that while the ban will do little for the environment, it will ruin Australian businesses which make and recycle the bags."

Answer: I don't believe that the ban will do little for the environment. If it stopped 2% of all Australian litter, would that not be a great success? If we stopped making guns, all the arms manufacturers would go out of business too. If we stopped using coal as fuel, all the coal miners would be out of work. So we continue to destroy the environment to keep people in jobs? Or do we support their retraining and reskilling into alternative employment?

Argument: "The public is being hoodwinked into thinking plastic bags are bad … when the problem is [some people] are not disposing of them properly."

Answer: Can't argue with that logic, but if they're not there to start with, they can't be disposed of improperly.

Argument: "There is now such a shortage of waste plastic for recycling, he says prices have doubled in the past 18 months."

Answer: If reduction and reusage reduces the amount we need to recycle, that is the whole point of the hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle. We should not ignore the first two actions to ensure the survival of the last. Plastics have now been found everywhere on the planet, and a floating rubbish bin twice the size of the continental US (largely consisting of plastic) is currently floating in the Pacific Ocean. I for one will not be sad to see the price of plastic increase.

Argument: "As for the thick green so-called eco bag, which Garrett has described as "canvas", it also is a plastic bag, made of polypropylene. Each is the equivalent of 1000 of the original polyethylene bags, Jacobsen says. And "no one wants to recycle them," as the plastic requires a higher temperature to melt. The bags rip and soil like any other bag, despite the hype, and at some point they must be disposed of."

Answer: Making thicker reusable plastic bags might not be the answer either, why not reuse old material to make your bags, or sustainable fibres? Just because one alternative isn't the best option, doesn't mean we stick with where we are.

I hope other people will leave their feedback and thoughts on this post. It's important that we tackle real issues, and don't get caught up in greenwashing and hype - we need the best facts and to get the the closest to the truth that we can get to make such decisions: playing political and financial games in either direction is just irrespsonsible.