It’s the sort of story to gladden a green-bag-toting environmentalist’s heart, “Drastic plastic bag ban looms“, with a claim that the plastic film component of waste at a western Sydney garbage processor has soared from 3% to 9% over the past six years.

The usual urge to blame the useful and inexpensive supermarket plastic bag is present, but the number presented is at odds with the reduction in bags allegedly being given out. And a quick look in my own pro-plastic bag rubbish bin finds nothing like 9% bags. So, as usual, nothing is quite what it seems.

The “plastic film” category contains more than HDPE plastic bags – cling wraps, bin liners, heavy-duty plastic bags and other packaging. Cut down on supermarket plastic bags and the number of expensive bin liners made of much thicker plastic rises.

Plastic film waste at Global Renewables in Eastern Creek, Sydney

Nevertheless, NSW manager of Global Renewables, John Lawson, can’t quite believe there has been a marked fall in the number of plastic bags coming out of supermarkets.

And the law of unintended consequences is hard at work. The last thing Lawson wants is a push for biodegradable plastic bags – they get mixed in with other plastic and make it unfit for recycling. It’s all a matter of dealing with it.

Lawson says some four per cent of the 175,000 tonnes of household garbage his plant deals with each year are disposable nappies – there must be a lot of people having one for Cossie. But Lawson doesn’t mind the nappies – the absorbent gel they contain is beneficial to the compost product his company produces. He doesn’t buy any suggestion though that plastic bags might be beneficial in stabilising land fill.

And for all the messages about sorting rubbish and recycling, he’s still getting 15,000 car batteries a year in the domestic rubbish.

Maybe we should ban cars too, even electric ones.