“More than 4 billion bags were imported in 2007, containing about 22 million tonnes of plastic,” warns the Smage this morn, apparently quoting a “draft” government report on environmental evil incarnate.

Well that’s certainly one way to rid supermarkets of plastic bags – each one weighs 5.5 kilos.

Such maths makes one wary of a very lightly-sourced and leaked report whose main claim is almost equally improbable: that Australian plastic bag usage suddenly soared from 3.36 billion in 2006 to 4.84 billion last year. A 44% jump against a declining trend is a bit more than a statistical aberration.

But mere numbers and facts don’t get in the way of the anti-bag crusaders desperate to save the planet. Cue Planet Ark et al.

And in the plastic bag they have what might be the perfect policy issue for Peter Garrett to grapple with – it gets lots of headlines, sounds good and doesn’t really mean much environmentally at all. Yet Garrett has still managed to make a meal of it with a $1 levy, no levy, maybe a levy, drove my Chevy to the levy etc.

Tokenism is a wonderful thing for the green warriors and environment ministers.

But before consumers are inconvenienced at a dubious net benefit, it would be nice to see the quality of the “draft” report, to check perhaps if it had any more substance than its 5.5 kilo bags. So far the bag baggers have been big on flawed studies and exaggerated claims.

AAP quotes bag supporter Richard Evans, Australian Retailers Association director, thus:

If the government wants to get rid of plastic bags, retailers will respond, but consumers will pay.

The question is why is everyone upset about plastic bags? It’s because of the litter … it’s a litter management issue and a consumer education issue as opposed to a plastic bag issue.

Yes, some people litter and most bags end up in landfill – along with all our other rubbish. I use mine to pick up dog sh*t first, but I’d have to stop that habit if they weighed 5.5 kg.

Peter Fray

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