Why haven’t lightweight plastic bags been banned in Sydney?

I ask myself the above question every single time I walk into a supermarket in Sydney. It blows my mind that a country this beautiful and with so much to lose from climate change would be this slow and inefficient at tackling the low hanging fruit, particularly in a city like Sydney.

It’s not like the issue hasn’t been brought up… clearly it has! According to Wikipedia “the states of South Australia, Tasmania, and the ACT and Northern Territory, along with some cities have independently banned the bag”. It’s estimated that this initiative alone saved 400 million bags each year since 2008! That’s a lot of bags and a lot of waste not making its way to the oceans (again, another resource that Australia should be desperate to protect).

Even if the environment is not the main drive behind it (and it should be), there are clear, undeniable, economic benefits in doing so. The UK estimates that over the next decade it will see £60m in savings (litter clean-up costs), £13m in carbon savings and £730m going to charitable causes (the proceedings from their “5 Pence tax” are expected to be distributed to good causes).

Bear in mind, it’s not just Sydney/Australia… my own home country of Portugal, with its coastal capital city of Lisbon, should be extremely worried about the possibility of water levels rising in the next 50 years. Yet, according to the graph below it still lags massively behind (and so do many other European coastal countries)

Source: Quora – How did countries like Denmark and Finland get rid of disposable plastic bags?

Looking at the above graph, it’s also easy to drive a parallel between countries that – historically – had environmental friendly policies and a reduced consumption of single-use carrier bags.

But you don’t need to be Denmark to do the right thing! The Rwanda Case perfectly demonstrates this. It’s not a matter of how… it’s a matter of will. As the author, Émilie Clavel, brilliantly outlined at the end of her article for The Guardian, “the mere fact that a developing country facing tremendous challenges has managed to enforce such groundbreaking legislation should make us wonder what the western world could achieve if the political will really existed”.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Get your will together, Sydney.