Supermarket giants in Ballarat will soon be single use plastic bag free, but environmentally minded campaigners are hoping to see more of the city’s retailers follow suit.
A total ban on single use plastic bags will be enforced at Woolworths stores from June 20, while the Coles ban will be in place from July 1.
Coles has pledged to halve food waste across its supermarkets by 2020, make all packaging of Coles Brand products recyclable, and reduce plastic wrapping on fruit and vegetables.
Woolworths announced it would stop selling plastic straws by the end of 2018 on Tuesday.
Woolworths stores will continue to trial the removal of plastic packaging on 80 fruit and vegetable products over the next 12 months, while both Coles and Woolworths have partnered with REDCycle, allowing customers to return soft plastics in store to be used to create products such as outdoor furniture.
Thirteen million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean each year. Data shows if current trends continue, the world’s oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
This dire outlook is prompting dramatic moves worldwide.
The Indian government announced a pledge to ban all single use plastic by 2022 at a World Environment Day summit on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Victorian Government is expected to announce the details and timeframe for a a statewide ban on single use lightweight plastic bags in coming weeks.
Collation and analysis of more than 8000 public submissions on the ban will also be released, including next steps for tackling other types of plastic pollution.
Australia's environment ministers have backed a plan for all packaging to be "recyclable, compostable or reusable" by 2025.
But some of Ballarat’s smaller supermarkets are working to stay ahead of government regulation.
Buninyong Foodworks announced they will be single use plastic bag free by July 1.
The store offers Boomerang Bags – community made reusable bags which are designed to be returned to the store for others customers to use.
Store manager Alan Nielson said staff were working to decide the best way to implement the ban.
“In a perfect world we would like to eliminate providing bags completely, but we are looking at other options for our customers like paper bags with handles,” he said.
“We are looking at reducing plastic in other areas. We would be more than happy to get rid of plastic straws if someone from the industry approached us with an alternative.”
Redan supermarket Maxi Foods has offered biodegradable bags for more than 10 years.
Managing director Brendan Blake said the bags were also designed for secondary use as kitchen bin liners, meaning they would not be affected by government regulation on single use plastic bags.
“We will always provide a bag for our customers to take their groceries home,” Mr Blake said.
Almost 1000 solar panels generate power on the roof of the store.
Despite recent announcements of moves to ‘go green’, Ballarat environmental campaigners are calling for more.
Plastic Bag Free Ballarat member Sandra Hawkins has a vision for Ballarat to be plastic free.
“I’d like to see all fruit and vegetables plastic free and recycled cardboard containers for soft fruits like berries and bulk dried foods so you can take your own containers to fill. I’d like to see shops allowing customers to bring their own containers to purchase fresh meat and deli items,” she said.
“People don’t seem to realise we are now finding plastic in tap water, in bottled water and in fish that is caught for human consumption. When the plastic and microplastics break down they attract contaminants and absorb toxic chemicals that are released into the body.
There a lot of health implications that we don’t know about.Sandra Hawkins, Plastic Bag Free Ballarat
“It would be fantastic if Ballarat could be completely plastic free. I think we can do it. It will require a combination of community education, government regulation, and stores to recognise that consumers want these solutions.
“We are drowning in plastic. Change needs to happen quicker.”
Visit nowasteballarat.org.au/ for tips and more information about what you can do to reduce plastic waste.
You can join the plastic free challenge as part of Plastic Free July.