Even those of you who managed to escape the allure of David Attenborough’s soothing voice narrating the idyllic imagery of BBC’s Blue Planet will no doubt be aware of the villain that is plastic. Polluting both land and ocean, the material poses one of the greatest environmental threats of our era. In the wake of Attenborough’s awe-inspiring docuseries, many eyes have been opened and awareness is at its peak. Many governments have decided, commendably, to take action resulting in what can only be called a war on plastic. While this commotion provides a glimmer of hope, there is still much to be done. I am proud to be part of a country that has decided to tackle this issue whole-heartedly, boasting a long-standing strategy to curb the practice of single-use bags and the supposed implementation of new ones to combat plastic straws and cotton buds. However, it seems as though my mind-set might not be universal.
After the recent employment of a ban against single-use bags in Australia, many customers expressed strong resistance resulting in what has been termed ‘bag rage’. With one customer allegedly grabbing a shop assistant by the throat, and another shouting that staff were ‘money-grabbing scum’, the refusal to accept this new strategy was very apparent. Woolworths, a large chain in Australia, was offering re-usable bags at the price of 8 pence but has now decided to offer them from free for the next week in an effort to tame the outrage.
The idea of paying for plastic bags is not strange to me at all, despite it being a fairly new phenomenon. While I understand at face value it may appear as though it is another case of large corporations extorting their customers, this is completely irrelevant. The cost of a bag for life is small, which means that while it can act as motivation to bring a bag with you, if you are caught off guard it is affordable. The simple truth is that free single-use plastic bags are something we have taken for granted, and although it may not seem like it they are certainly something we don’t need. It is such a small thing to bring a bag with you to shop, or else pay less than ten pence, that this outrage is not only unwarranted but also undeniably selfish.
It is overwhelmingly saddening to me that such an important and beneficial initiative should be met with resistance and selfishness. The problems caused by plastic usage are so immense and universally agreed upon that the lack of willingness to tackle them is shameful. It seems to me as though this may be a case of pretending to care, when in reality being unable to bend even slightly to help. Perhaps it is because, to everyday life, plastic pollution is abstract or perhaps it is because of conceit. Regardless of the reason, as humans and as a society which has caused so much damage already, it is not compassion which should fuel our efforts to restore and maintain the environment but duty. There are, in my opinion, no excuses for ignorance and an unwillingness to do your part. While I am aware I am not perfect, it is not perfection that is required but simply effort. It seems as though Aqua got it very wrong; life in plastic is certainly not fantastic.