Six billion plastic bags every year

I HAVE just discovered Australians use six billion plastic bags annually.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a spoon-fed incontinent babe-in-arms or an incontinent spoon-fed nonagenarian, you have 300 plackie bags against your name. Same if you live in the twin cities, which is responsible for the consumption of — wait for it — 48 million of the damned things!

You could wrap up Magnetic Island one rock at a time and still have enough left over for the groceries.

Not all Australians carry the burden of responsibility for this, however. My wife would sooner go out in public with no drawers than be seen with a plastic bag. It is part of her personal campaign to save the world. Our campaign, I suppose, since I’d have to be out of my mind to take a plastic bag into a house where the green police read the labels on the jam jars more closely than barristers read contracts.

But despite my wife’s campaign I fear she is losing. You only have to stand outside a supermarket for five minutes to ask yourself how come we get through as few as 300 plastic bags a year each.

I see trollies so loaded with plastic bags they probably weigh more than the groceries.

And what do people do with them when they get them home? There are only so many you can stuff in those neat little holders with the hole in the bottom for pulling them out of. The rest must lurk under beds, and in the third drawer down waiting for the end of the world when they’ll leap out and choke us. Except that they’re doing that already.

Sadly, they are not filling up our houses while we go and live in our sheds. They are filling up our garbage bins, and then the numerous holes in the ground in which we try to hide our rubbish.

I remember rubbish tips from when I was a kid, which was so long ago they were filled with all kinds of exciting bits and pieces: old bottles and stoneware pots, toys that were only slightly rusted.

When my dad heard someone had discovered a new — that is, old — Victorian tip we’d go and tug all sorts of treasures out of the ground.

Tips of the future are going to be different. All the kids will find will be slimy, evil-smelling plastic bags, still filled with the putrescent remains of lamb chops, or mouldy fridge leftovers.

By the time they’ve covered them up again they’ll have grown two heads and ingested sufficient toxic fumes to dissolve a bulldozer.

And the sick joke is we don’t need plastic bags. They have an active life of less than three minutes, being the bit where they are lifted from the counter to the trolley, again from the trolley to the car, and finally from the car to the kitchen. That’s it. All over.

Machines thunder and churn, boffins with earnest expressions and thick spectacles click away feverishly on computer keyboards, the best in human ingenuity finds ways to bore into the bowels of the earth for the raw materials – and all to provide a thing that lasts three minutes, assuming that within that time it doesn’t drop your eggs and butter over the footpath through a sudden split in its bottom.

In some countries if you want a plastic bag you have to pay for it, and a good job too. In others they just don’t supply them. You have to take a proper shopping bag, or a box from home. Or wear a coat with lots of pockets.

Better alternatives, I think, than chucking away — every year, mark you — enough plastic bags to carpet the whole of Queensland, which, despite what they say in Melbourne, would not be an improvement.