While Australian supermarkets are moving away from giving out plastic bags at the checkout, there’s still a glaringly obvious plastic problem which hinders the shopping experience for those trying to do their part.
Over the weekend, Yahoo News Australia reported on why shoppers weren’t too happy with Woolworths for using excessive plastic package on their fresh produce.
“What the f*** are you doing Woolworths? Apples last for days in their skin,” a customer wrote on Facebook, referring to mini packets of sliced apples being sold at Woolies.
“Woolies is individually wrapping cut slices in plastic and wrapping the entire thing again in more plastic for kids lunchboxes... They still don’t get it. How out of touch are [they]?”
The problem is plastic bags are still the norm for Australian customers who use them to carry their fruit and vegetables and what is most puzzling is some foods just do not need any sort of packaging.
Enter Anita Horan – a writer, plastic-free produce campaigner and mother – who is petitioning the Parliament of Australia to make it illegal for businesses to supply the bags for certain foods for customers.
The petition lists produce such as bananas, pineapples, whole watermelon, whole rockmelon, whole honeydew and whole pumpkin as items people do not need plastic bags for, adding the ban could also be extended to foods with ‘robust skin’, like avocados, sweet potato and oranges.
“People have become scared of buying 'nude food’,” the petition says.
“Free plastic produce bags are an excessive and wasteful use of plastic. Recycling plastic or switching to other materials like paper or biodegradable plastic creates other problems and is not the answer. We need to reduce plastic use in the first place.”
Although she has no activism background, Ms Horan, from NSW, has always been environmentally aware and has always been conscious of the plastic she was consuming, well before she took to social media.
About four years ago she conducted an experiment where she hoarded all the plastic she had accumulated over two weeks and after that she booked herself a tour at a recycling plant to find out where the plastic was actually going.
Ms Horan has become particularly disillusioned by shoppers compulsion to use single-use plastic to bag their produce.
“I watched in disbelief as people still bagged their bananas and rockmelons with the free plastic bags in the fresh produce section,” she wrote on her website.
“I even saw a man put two tiny chillies in a plastic bag and another lady bagged one single lemon.”
But what has perhaps disturbed Ms Horan the most is in wake of the current bushfires, people are still using single-use plastic when it isn’t necessary.
“There was a bit of a trigger [for the petition] with these fires, because Australia is on fire, it’s an environmental crisis and people are still bagging a lemon,” Ms Horan told Yahoo News Australia.
“How bad does the environment have to get for people to actually start changing their behaviour and make some kind of personal sacrifice?”
While the produce bags are convenient, there are plenty of alternatives which are just as accessible.
Ms Horan suggests people just taking their own reuseable bags when they shop, which can be purchased in stores or online.
“You can even use the fabric bags you wash your delicate clothes in, lots of people sew reusable produce bags from old fabric,” Ms Horan said.
Although she admits she rarely uses her re-useable bags, she says: “I just chuck [produce] in loose”.
While she believes there has been a bit of a shift with shoppers, even though supermarkets supplying the single-use plastic bags encourages people to use them, Ms Horan does not think the societal shift away from the bags is happening fast enough.
Her petition has already amassed more than 14,000 signatures and the petition will end on December 25.
The movement Ms Horan is leading is a grass-roots movement with plenty of mothers who just want a healthy planet for their children.
Ms Horan has also been in contact with the NSW Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean, who has asked her to consult with him as he works on legislation regarding plastic.
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