VIDEO: Bans on plastic bags help no one — Stonehouse

Picture: Atlas House

I know it is more normal for our friends in the Greens to quote from United Nations scientists than it is for a Liberal Democrat to do so — we are not really one world government types — but, still, I would like to refer members to the work of Dr Lilia Casanova, who was the deputy director of the United Nations Environment Programme’s International Environmental Technology Centre in Japan.

Video: Parliament of Western Australia

In that capacity, Dr Casanova presented evidence that showed that paper bags take up as much as nine times more room in landfill than plastic and take about the same amount of time to break down. According to the scientific evidence, far from easing pressure on landfill sites, banning plastic bags will clog them up further, and that is before we stop to consider that paper bags generate 70 per cent more air pollutants and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags and require four times as much energy to produce.

Research from the University of Oregon has shown that plastic bags cause less environmental stress than their paper or cotton equivalents. They not only use less water but also require fewer chemicals and produce less greenhouse gas than either of these alternatives, giving plastic half the carbon footprint of cotton and paper.

Is the government really telling us that it is in favour of increasing our greenhouse gas emissions, or China’s greenhouse gas emissions, given that it is doubtless that that is where we will be buying the bulk of our new bags from? Is the McGowan government really so environmentally heartless that it would risk a rise in greenhouse gases simply to pander to the feel-good factor at the supermarket checkout?

Let us not forget that once the bags have been made, they need to be transported. Paper and cotton bags, and even heavier plastic bags, take up more space than so-called single-use bags. Because they take up more space, they weigh more and require more fuel and more trucks to transport. Again, is the McGowan government really advocating for more trucks on our roads and more petrol pollution in the air we breathe?

I understand that there are some science sceptics on the government and Greens benches. It is sad, but we cannot expect everyone to walk willingly into the twenty-first century. So-called single-use plastic bags, which were never single use to begin with, are functional, durable and very re-useable.

If someone needs to carry a lot of grocery bags at once, plastic bags work better than paper bags. If someone wants to separate their wet clothes from other items on the way back from the beach, plastic is better than paper every time. If someone has a leaky milk carton from the filling station, again, it is plastic. If someone needs a bin liner in the kitchen or they need to clean up after their dog or cat, it is plastic.

Paper does not cut it. A paper bag has to be used about three times to equal the environmental impact of one so-called single-use plastic bag. A thicker low-density polyethylene bag has to be used four times. The so-called green bag has to be used 11 times, while a cotton bag needs to be used 131 times to equal the impact of a single-use plastic bag.

If this ban did not sound futile enough, consider a recent study that estimated that 90 per cent of plastic pollution in our oceans comes from just 10 rivers, eight of which are in Asia — the Yangtze, Indus, Yellow, Haihe, Ganges, Pearl, Amur and Mekong — and two, the Nile and Niger, are in Africa. It seems that our efforts to curb plastic pollution here will have little impact on the overall plastic pollution in our oceans.

I do not know whether the hypocrisy of the Greens on the left is outstripped by their refusal to believe the science in front of them or whether it is the other way around. What I do know is that the ban on plastic bags is based on a combination of myths, half-truths and distortions peddled by science deniers who are happier proposing warm, touchy-feely policies that, at best, will not achieve anything and, at worst, will set us back, than they are dealing with the real pressing issues facing this planet. I am calling them out today and I am calling out their bag ban for what it is — a crock. It is unnecessary, it is unscientific and it is time we consigned it to the rubbish dump of history.