CHOICE membership

Plastic packaging & plastic bags



I am not confusing degradable and biodegradable. The plant based biodegradables will dissolve in water in about 6 months. Not as fast as toilet paper, but much faster than the eons plastics require.


Yes there are plant based biogradable bags which react differently in the environment to conventional plastic bags…however, there is no legal/standard definition to what biodegradable means. As a result, many plastic bags are manufactured to breakdown quicker and labelled as biodegradable. While it is possibly correct, it confuses the issue.

What could be used is the words like ‘compostable into non-plastic materials’. This would be better than using the term biogradable as it would prevent potentially misleading claims about plastic bags.


There is a standard for what is biodegradable, AS4736-200, and there are many definitions, all strikingly similar, even though there may be no explicit legal definition. Note the link is a teaser and one must buy the AS! I have not and would welcome comments from anyone who has a copy.

It appears at least the ACT ban (and probably others) requires ‘biodegradable’ bags to meet the AS4736-200 standard, whatever that requires. Fascinating how the requirement and the standard and the ACCC requirements for honest advertising regarding same, make what is effectively a meaningfully meaningless circular reference :smiley:

Forgetting the legal aspects, a common definition is "Capable of being broken down (decomposed) rapidly by the action of microorganisms. Biodegradable substances include food scraps, cotton, wool, wood, human and animal waste, manufactured products based on natural materials (such as paper, and vegetable-oil based soaps). See also degradable and photodegradable.


Whoops, forgot about voluntarily AS4736, with emphasis on voluntary. My understanding of this AS is that you only need to meet the biodegradable claims in the standard should a entity make xlaims it meets AS4736…which is why (witgout doing further research) the ACT possibly has make local reqyiements to meet AS4736…to try and substantiate any biodegradable claims for bags available in the ACT. In effect they are attempting to make a voluntary AS compulsory by other means.

Notwithstanding this, in other States, unless similar requirements are legislated, one can make claims about any about potential biodegradability, providing they don’t say the product meets as4736. Such claims could be wildly different to the requirements of AS4736.

If it was a compulsory standard for all biodegradable bags, then any differing claims to that in the sttandard could not be made.


And the consumer response to the ban on single use plastic bags is:


aarrrggghhh, is it the consumers or the bags that are thicker? :wink:


This is why those thicker bags should be banned also


Here is part of the solution to wean people off plastic:

Boomerang Bags works to reduce the use of plastic bags by engaging local communities in the making of Boomerang Bags – community made, using recycled materials. Boomerang Bags provide a free, fun, sustainable alternative to plastic bags.


As they say, 28 days becomes a habit.

We have been using calico shopping bags for about 12 years. We still have some of the original ones we acquired back in 2005/6 and are still used for shopping…albeit with some minor repairs to holes and seams.

Only last week the checkout cashier at Woolies was complaining about the removal of plastic shopping bags in Queensland mid year. I said I suported the removal providing the alternatives were long lasting and more environmehtally friendly. I also said that the bags she was filling were about 10+years old…and would have saved at least several hundred plastic bags (possibly up to 500) over each ones life. She was astonished and said she had bought some green recycled reusable bags recently and they had started falling apart after a few months. I said cotton calico is the way to go as they are robust, can be easily mended and easiIy washed. She tyen asked me where fo get some from and I joking said…don’t know as we haven’t had ro buy any for years and wouldn’t know where to start.

Hopefully she tells her management of our experience and maybe plant the seeds of change.

NB. We also have some nylon bags which roll up into a golf ball size for travelling and also for emergencies (they are kept in handbags/daypacks when out and about).


The ban on single use plastic bags starts 1 July in Qld. With little warning my local supermarket started charging 10c per single use bag from 1 April (not an April Fools joke!). I suggested they provide boxes, which they have (thus reducing the cardboard they throw out), and they also have “green” bags for sale at $5.

This is the only grocery in a small town and is very expensive, only the elderly who can’t drive do all their shopping there. Perhaps it is encouraging people to make other arrangements, but cynical me thinks it is a money grab. A tin of peaches is $2.30, the same tin is $0.69 to $0.99 just 25 mins down the road. The cashier charged me one bag per item (milk, soap, bread, bananas) despite me holding my own cloth bag. I refused to pay the 40 cents. They employ part time juniors, so maybe the whole point was lost on them.

What happened in other states before the ban?


Some years ago (9 years, perhaps) I was given a couple of light, strong EcoSilk shopping bags. I was so impressed, I got onto the website and bought myself a multicoloured set. The set comes in a little drawstring bag, which goes with me everywhere, and I never need plastic bags. EcoSilk is an Australian company, I believe, although the bags are not actually made in Australia - but think how many plastic bags I’ve saved over the years for the weekly shopping alone. They also wash easily and dry quickly.


In our area you have to use plastic kitchen tidy bags as the council has mandated it for council worker OH&S reasons (funny you ring the council, and one person states plastic bin liners not required, call back a few minutes later and they are required). We and our next door neighbours tried putting food scraps in the compost bin, and shelved the idea (actually the neighbour junked his compost bin) when rats were seen to be tunnelling underneath the bin. Council recommendation, and Bunnings was to have a concrete slab laid for the bins. We also have to have plastic bags when walking the dog, and have been using the supermarket bags, but this use will reduce as the Council is issuing single use doggy poo bags, plus the quick thinking local $2 shop is also now selling boxes of single use plastic doggy poo bags. We have bought a number of the heavy plastic bags for shopping (Woolworths brand for 9c / bag) so we will see what happens.


If you have problems with rats and have a vege patch, try trench composting.

If you use a wheelie bin which is collected by truck, bin liners are not required. They used to be required when garbos emptied the older steel bins into a larger bin at one residence, before dumping into the back of a rubbish truck. If rubbish was not bagged, the dust would fly everywhere including over the garbo. They are also a definite no for recycling bins as the bags can cause significant problems as automated MRFs.

Bagging rubbish collected in the house (rather than a bin liner) will reduce odours and flies in your bin as well.


Actually trench composting would still leave the food scraps available for vermin to dig up. The bin liners refered to are the kitchen tidy liners which contain the foods scraps and other kitchen refuse. Just putting food scraps on the bin with no liner or not at least wrapped in paper would then require the bin washed daily.


For thought.


Most food scraps can be wrapped in newspaper and placed in the freezer until “bin day”.


Should I remind all on about the good old days. The 1950-60’s!

Some how we mostly lived in a virtually plastic free world.
A plastic bag was a revered treasure that was saved, washed and reused many times. Brown sugar and some biscuits were the few items I remember in anything plastic.

Paper was king. Waxed paper was used for moisture resistance. The shopping was packed into large heavy brown paper bags and the odd left over card board carton. Most shops also had rolls of brown wrapping paper. All the shopping went in your carry bag, often of string that collapsed into pocket size or expanded to car boot capacity. No one complained. Life was good.

Nearly all the packaging came from renewable resources, although the process of renewal may not have been as important then.

Why do we have a problem now?
Plastics are easy to produce, shape, mould, manipulate and keep modern products sealed for longer shelf life is one proposition. They have convenience and cost advantages for the manufacturer before all else.

I’d be prepared to sort all my waste and return all but food scraps to my super market or variety store for them to recycle. After all it is the stores decission on what products and packaging to supply. Let them get the problem back. Here take my leaky batteries and polystyrene foam. Yes, it might still need legislation to stop the stores just dumping or burning stuff. But it is these businesses that have the greatest influence over supply. And the ability to put a supplier out of the market if they do not want to change?

Rather that than what happens now where us poor consumers are being held to account and having to pay for cleanup more directly. This is also an acknowledgement that it might make stuff more expensive to buy. Tough as that seems the cost to the environment and sustainability is real and getting more so the longer things stay as they are. The lowest cost place to fix it is at the source, not after it has multiplied as a problem for the environment and our lifestyle.


Not quite a backflip…more about now introducing transitional arrangements.


I have been a Choice fan for years, so I was surprised that my reading experience could be damped by this one statement:

“Getting rid of plastic bags is…excellent for the environment…” (CHOICE, June 2018, p. 9).

For one thing it is an assertion rather than reporting that this is what many people believe.

What’s more it’s a misleading assertion. You don’t have to look far beyond the fashionable PC rhetoric to discover that this is actually a complex question, especially in an Australian context. I can elaborate on that if anyone is interested.

For now, I just want to say that I expect a bit more objectivity and depth from our beloved CHOICE.

Thanks for all you do.


I have to agree.

The current alternatives, e.g. thick multiuse bags are a poorer environmental outcome by themselves. This is offset by potentially less single use/issue shopping bags being used in Australia.

But I am yet to be convinced that the current government policy is the right way to go.

I beleive that removing all plastic shopping bags would possibly provide an overall environmental benefit.

Only time will tell.