War on Waste Ep 2: #BanTheBag (and do it properly please)

In this episode, we learn that it’s more economical to recycle than send rubbish to landfill, and yet Australia is still not doing it. Why not? The short answer seems to be we’re lazy and we don’t care.

Straight out of the gate, Craig is rolling a massive ball of plastic bags towards politicians. Brilliant. They largely ignore him and honestly, I would run from a giant ball of plastic bags as well. I’ve seen Indiana Jones.

Later on, he tracks down Gladys Berejiklian with his ball and she says, “How did you know I was heeeeere?” in that kind of high pitched, strained way that you say, “I loooove it!” when someone gives you a really badpresent. Then she escapes on a city rail train.

She looked something like this.

We soon revisit the families from last week’s episode, who all mean well but don’t have a clue what they’re doing as far as recycling goes. When Craig visits a recycling plant, he finds people picking non-recyclables out of the pile of rubbish – and someone has even thrown an esky in the recycling bin. C’mon guys, where were you back in the 90s? I distinctly remember recycling lessons being drilled into my head as a child.

Except that apparently, I didn’t know half as much as I thought I did. It turns out that triangle of arrows has nothing to do with whether or not something is recyclable. The real test of recyclability is scrunching.

Another lesson you may have missed in primary school is: jars and bottles are recyclable but do NOT recycle your wine glasses after smashing them in pinot noir fuelled shenanigans.

But then one mum brings up a very good point that segues nicely into the rest of the episode – do they really recycle plastic or do they just tell us they do? Is it all a conspiracy?

To find out, Craig checks his plastic bag GPS and finds that the woollies bag has wound up in Ipswich, which will make a weird kind of sense to you if you’ve ever been to Ipswich.

He’s blown a massive scandal wide open – Woolies is sending their recycling to a landfill! I feel so betrayed by Woolworths right now. In the interest of fair play and rigorous scientific accuracy, Craig does a repeat of the GPS-in-a-plastic-bag experiment, and follows it to what appears to be a recycling plant.

Except there’s something fishy going on. Everyone he talks to about the plant tells him a different thing – one guy says that yes of course they recycle all Woolies plastic bags, and then immediately afterwards, his boss calls to deny any knowledge of recycling, supermarkets or plastic bags in general. Fishy.

Speaking of fish, Craig then goes diving in Sydney Harbour, and honestly, if you expected it to be clean in there, you’ve obviously never been to Sydney Harbour before. But there is a tonne of rubbish. More than even the most jaded Sydney-sider might expect.
Craig tells us that it’s estimated by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. That sounds like something from a dystopian YA novel.

Look this turtle in the eye and tell it why you need a plastic bag for your two boxes of instant noodles.

But Craig isn’t done blowing the lid off environmental scandals just yet – he heads to Hobart, where there’s been a plastic bag ban since 2013, and finds businesses giving out plastic bags. He orders some groceries online and they come in – you guessed it, plastic bags. This is some serious investigative journalism.

Apparently, this is ok, legally speaking, because these plastic bags are thicker than normal ones and are therefore… somehow better for the environment? I think the idea is the A) won’t blow into the ocean so easily and B) could, theoretically, be reusable.

Craig talks to a plastic bag expert (put that on a business card to impress people at your 10 year reunion) who says ALL bags are bad. And here’s the kicker – biodegradable ones are even worse than the regular ones. I feel like I’ve been lied to my entire life.

If we’re going to have a plastic bag ban, Craig says, we’ve got to close the loopholes that allow shops to still, you know, give out plastic bags.

Next week we tackle fast fashion – which I can already tell is going to make me feel really, really guilty.

Miss the first week of War on Waste? Catch up here.