COMMENT: ‘Bag rage’, backflips and Hans’ big mistake

It’s a double backflip reminiscent of an Olympic Games diving competition.

Around the world people were shown images of “bag rage” from customers unhappy at paying extra cash for plastic bags after trudging the fluorescent lit aisles of their local supermarkets.

After years of governments avoiding the issue, supermarkets stepped in and banned the free single-use bags themselves.

I guess pollution is a bigger issue at the supermarket than it is at an election polling booth.

In just two days Coles has gone from deciding to “indefinitely” give away thicker multi-use plastic bags to avoid customer anger, to setting a August 29 date for the end of the free-for-all.

While the multi-use bags are described by the company as “bigger, thicker and more durable”, they are still plastic, and still just as horrible for the environment as single-use bags. Continually using these bags is potentially even worse for the environment.

With plastic bags being found in the stomachs of local wildlife, you would think a blanket ban on the use of a bag made from such an easily breakable material would be the commonsense thing today.

Something that was once used and tossed away without any thought has become public enemy number one.

But if you’re thinking of switching back to the old paper bags don’t do it.

Paper bags have a higher carbon footprint than plastic due to the manufacturing process.

Even the production of plastic bags could and perhaps should be regulated, with the current Australian standard for biodegradable plastics completely voluntary.

And even biodegradable plastics just break down into smaller and smaller pieces, which can then enter the food chain.

According to one American plastics manufacturer, over one trillion plastic bags are made around the world each year.

The bags have been most commonly made from polyethylene, which while not very strong is very stretchy and becomes brittle under sunlight.

Derived from natural gas and petroleum, polyethylene was discovered by German chemist Hans von Pechmann by mistake in 1894. Just imagine if he had not stumbled across the waxy substance. The world would be a completely different place.

And, sorry, if you’re angry at having to pay for a plastic bag, you’re completely missing the point of trying to reduce their use.