Boomerang Alliance wants stronger reusable bags, not paper bags

Single-use plastic bags

24 February 2023

The Boomerang Alliance welcomes Woolworths’ announcement on the phase-out of their 15 cents plastic shopping bags in Queensland.

The move comes ahead of a proposed ban on these bags scheduled for September (in Queensland). Bans are already in place in Western Australia and are expected soon in South Australia and the ACT.

However, there is a concern that Woolworths and others may switch customers to another disposable option, paper bags.

‘Reusable bags, not paper bags, are the answer to plastic bag waste and litter,’ says Boomerang Alliance Campaign Manager Toby Hutcheon. Wildlife Queensland agrees.

Why aren’t paper bags the answer?

Paper bags are single-use items. They continue the linear make, take, dispose of economy, not a circular one.

Paper is not infinitely recyclable and is limited in its reuse opportunities. There will be a continued need to top up pulp fibres in the paper whereas a strong, enduring, reusable plastic bag needs no energy or resources to continue being used once initially made.

Creating plantations for pulping timber removes diversified ecosystems and promotes ecologically unsustainable monocultures.

Reusable bags, not paper bags

Woolworths says that 80% of their customers already use so-called ‘reusable bags’ and encourages other customers to do the same. But what will happen when these bags need to be replaced?

The Boomerang Alliance is proposing a new national standard for reusable bags where bags should:

  • be manufactured and tested to be able to achieve at least 125 shopping cycles,
  • be a minimum thickness, ideally with stitched handles,
  • use recycled materials and
  • be able to be collected for recycling at the end of its life.

They are seeking the support of all governments in endorsing this as a national standard and urging all retailers only to sell reusable shopping bags that meet the new standard. Wildlife Queensland agrees.

‘Wildlife Queensland strongly endorses the Boomerang Alliance’s proposal for the increased use of reusable bags and hopes the Queensland government adopts this new standard in their regulations,’ says Wildlife Queensland Policies & Campaigns Manager Officer, Des Boyland.

We all agree using a stronger reusable bag is preferable to paper bags.

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