THEY’RE a modern-day urban tumbleweed, clogging gutters, swimming in waterways, bulking up landfills and killing wildlife.
That the plastic bag is an environmental cancer is no longer grounds for debate.
That they’ll be a museum exhibit in a generation’s time is also a given.
What will replace them, the rapidity of their phasing out and the impost this puts on retailers and consumers remain fiercely contested.
The tiny Riverina town of Jindera, not normally known for its green predilection, has emerged as an unlikely leader in the battle to ban the bag.
As of May 1, Jindera’s only supermarket will stop using plastic bags after 60 per cent of respondents supported a ban in a recent questionnaire.
Astoundingly, that single, small IGA supermarket goes through about 200,000 plastic bags a year.
Imagine how many Wagga uses a year?
For years, state governments have inched closer to a ban but been stymied by the powerful business lobby.
From 2018, the Queensland government will officially ban the single-use plastic bag while the Greens are furiously pushing for NSW and Victoria to follow suit.
The issue remains whether slapping a compulsory ban on bags is practical. The big retailers say a ban is unworkable, arguing it places an unfair burden on shoppers and retailers.
They claim it will act as a disincentive to shoppers spending money locally. They reject a push for recyclable paper bags, claiming they come with their own set of unique issues.
They are instead pushing voluntary compliance as the answer, pointing to figures showing our plastic bag dependence has already dropped dramatically in recent years.
But environmentalists are unmoved, saying bans or a levy on bags is the only way to successfully break the habit.
If a levy on bags in Australia could mirror the Irish experience then the problem would be solved, they say. When Ireland introduced a 27 cent levy on plastic bags in 2002, use decreased by 90 per cent over a six month period.
Figures like that – and increasing rumblings on the issue by all three tiers of government – suggest the humble plastic bag may be consigned to the giant garbage bin of history sooner rather than later.