But remember the horror stories we were told to justify a ban or surcharge? Take Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s scares. We had “Four billion plastic bags floating around Australia’s environment”, he said. False. Of all those bags we used each year, just 0.8 per cent became litter. On Garrett burbled. A beached whale in France “had 800 kilos worth of plastic bags and rubbish inside it”. False. It had swallowed just two bags, and the rubbish in its gut weighed just 800 grams. The Rann Government was as reckless. Its Zero Waste website claimed a Newfoundland study found plastic bags killed more than 100,000 marine mammals every year. What a popular scare that was. Planet Ark used it, and a Senate environmental committee inquiry in 2002 believed it. But as a Productivity Commission report in 2006 confirmed, this claim was false, too. The Newfoundland study in fact said up to 100,000 animals a year might be killed or injured by discarded fishing nets and lines. It didn’t mention plastic bags at all. Indeed, the commission said claims that plastic bags injured lots of animals weren’t backed up with any evidence, and the “actual numbers of animals killed or injured … is obviously nearly impossible to determine”. Moreover, “the case for proceeding with the phase out of plastic bags appears particularly weak”, and “the benefits … would be significantly outweighed by the costs”. Why not simply clean up the litter? In fact, the commission warned, a ban might not even work. Lots of shoppers who used free shopping bags for bin liners and to carry stuff “are likely to purchase more plastic garbage bags at additional financial cost”.
There was an interesting article in the Herald Sun this past week which highlights some of the falsehoods that had been bandied around by various politicians in trying to justify the need for a Plastic Bag Ban – as well as highlighting the increase in sales of bin liners, garbage bags and kitchen tidy liners as a result of the South Australian Ban on Plastic Bags.