The End of the World as We Know ItAs the calendar rolled over to July 1, Pearl anxiously awaited the dystopia that would emerge from Woolworths’ and Coles’ ban on single-use plastic bags. I awaited a world where household rubbish would be discarded across the landscape and pensioners would be left homeless as their meagre income was sucked into a vacuum of 15-cent reusable plastic bags. I awaited the Contagion-style bacteria outbreak that was looming at the bottom of my hessian shopping bag.
I waited and waited, for I had stupidly placed my faith in Sydney’s shock jocks. I had blindly followed the oracy of Andrew Bolt that foretold that the end of plastic bags would result in the end of the world and that I, Pearl Bullivant, would be chloroformed by my addiction to hipster calico bags.
But nothing happened.
And so, on July 2, I returned to my usual financial year-end exploit – helping my friends to avoid paying any tax – sad for myself and embarrassed for the shock jocks plying their trade of negativity and misery.
Australia’s reaction to the plastic bag ban has been bizarre. Across the land, supermarket staff members have been subjected to abuse and trolleys laden with groceries have been left abandoned in disgust at the checkout. Where has all this passion come from? Why hasn’t this angst been directed at the plethora of environmental and social ills that both tiers of government have imposed upon the nation? And who would have envisaged the pandemonium that has resulted from a simple ecological act that has turned back the hands of time? The populace has no issue with a federal government that insists on regressing to dirty coal, but regressing to Nanna’s string bag? That’s archaic.
In NSW there is no formal ban on plastic bags, with Gladys putting her faith in the goodwill of Woolworths and Coles. Not even one-upmanship by the frontier states of WA and Queensland could threaten Gladys’ resolve in her refusal to force anything so nanny state-ish onto her populace, though she sees no issue with forcing overdevelopment onto those who don’t want it. Banning plastic bags is more electorally sensitive than Sydney’s traffic, Badgerys Creek, fracking and mining the Blue Mountains, and Gladys knows it.
Stockpiling plastic bags at home, whinging about the ‘challenges’ of remembering your own bags, threatening to boycott the monopoly supermarkets and having a bunch of consumer behaviourists weigh in on the debate (blaming our actions on a neurotypical response to change, for goodness’ sake) are not the reactions of a level-headed, mature society.
Alas, there was no catastrophic extinction event on July 1, just a few abandoned trolleys laden with groceries and a temporary backflip by Woolworths and Coles. And while Ireland, France and Germany have banned plastic bags and fracking with complete ease, conservative Australia struggles to remember to put the green bags in the car boot. If it was up to Pearl, I’d be taking the Kenyan approach and locking plastic bag smugglers in jail. Happy shopping!