Imagine if green bags became one of history’s eco-fails?

Some of us never leave home without our green bags (or some variation of them). They were introduced to Australian consumers in 2002, and after a few short years they were declared Australia’s hot new accessory, despite being a shade of garish green that goes with practically nothing.

One newspaper columnist wrote: “In 2005, we proclaim we are one nation with green bags just as we proclaimed we were one suburb of a nation with Holden cars, Hills hoists and the backyard barbie.”

There was some initial concern over the materials used in these green bags (polypropolene, a fossilfuel based plastic) but Ian Kiernan of the Clean Up Australia campaign asserted that each green bag in use saves an estimated 431 shopping bags per year. The switch to green bags helped cut consumption of disposable plastic bags from about 5.9 billion in 2002 to 3.9 billion in 2007.  A few years on and the popularity of green bags had the big supermarket chains profiteering  from them; their eco-friendly quality had become dubious following the sale of almost 20 million of them (in 2010).

The benefits of green bags will only hold true if we use them properly. If you are concerned about green bags themselves heading to landfill, then it’s simple – don’t collect 15 of them. Don’t accept one every time you buy something. Just have one or two and use them until they fall apart (hopefully this doesn’t happen while you are transporting the eggs home!)

If you carry your own bag daily (handbag, tote, manbag) you will sometimes have enough room in there for whatever you are purchasing. If you think a green bag is too bulky, have a look around for a smaller, folding variety of tote. (I have one by American Apparel that can fit a tremendous amount of groceries, has been used at least 4 times per week for almost 4 years and is thus far indestructible. You could also try rolling up a green bag and popping a rubber band around it – you might be surprised by how small you can make them!)

Here’s a few other tips to remember them on your way to the shops:

1. Keep them somewhere in plain sight that is on your way out of the house / to the car.
2. How do you get to the grocery store? If you take a car to shop, leave them in the boot / backseat. If you walk and take the dog, attach to your dog’s leash. If you ride, attach to your bicycle!
3. Write BAGS on your shopping list.
4. Ask your kids to remind you to take the bags.

(Editor’s note: One of our clever readers got in touch after we posted this article to let us know that your old worn green bags can be recycled by Replas – all you need to do is pop them in the REDCycle bin’s at Coles stores.)

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