A Baggy Conundrum

From the first of November, plastic shopping bags will be a thing of the past in Tasmania. They have been banned from shops and supermarkets all over the state.

Hooray! Apart from the swag of environmental benefits, they are so ugly. As a receptacle to carry things about in, I think even a committee could not have come up with an uglier option (which begs the question - who WAS responsible for inventing such a misbegotten monstrosity? And where were the fashion police at the time?).

This is of course, marvellous news. But now I have a dilemma. We bought an under-the-sink, swing out rubbish bin, which we deliberately chose because it was shopping bag sized, so we wouldn't have to buy rubbish bin liners (because we are cheap frugal). The kitchen-design people couldn't understand why we didn't want their giant pull-out bin drawer option. Um, because we don't make that much rubbish, and we want to store food and saucepans in our limited kitchen space, not rubbish, that's why. And we don't want to spend money on giant-sized bin bags.

Anyways, since we have shunned our former profligate plastic-bag collecting days, we have still been lining our bin with plastic bags, just not our plastic bags. Every time I visit plastic bag-using friends and neighbours, I cadge plastic bags off them. Yes I know, but if I don't take them, they put them in the bin. So I have been SAVING them, right, to be used another day, OK? I know, it doesn't really make sense, but now, now I will not have plastic bags AT ALL. What to do people?

Who has a non-plastic bag based rubbish disposal system? I need ideas...

So far all I have thought is that the thick, department store-type plastic bags are still legal. I could cadge those... I don't want to buy the compostable ones, because as far as I know they don't compost except under industrial hot compost conditions. Is that correct?

Of course, the ultimate answer is don't make rubbish... not quite there yet. Does anyone know where I can buy ballet tights without plastic wrapping?


Tanya Murray said…
Back in the day I remember my mother wrapping anything unsavoury in newspaper before putting it into the bin, for example bean tins and pineapple peels. Most things were composted and the rest were burnt. Everything else just went into the bin like we place recyclables now. There really wasn't much in the way of rubbish. Every house had a compost pile and an incinerator. Barely anything was of a disposable plastic kind.
You are probably like us Jo, the only thing really going into our bin is those little bits of plastic wrap and ring that is on the top of bottles etc for "safety sealing". Cotton buds is another that comes to mind and cheese packets. The plastic bag liners just made these items more convenient to transport to the big bin. In reality we probably don't need the liners as much as we think we do.
Linda said…
We will probably be banning supermarket plastic carrier bags in England in a couple of years. However, there are now doctors saying that reusing plastic bags, so-called 'Bags for Life' can encourage salmonella and eColi type diseases because re-using plastic bags that have previously carried raw meat(even if it is plastic-wrapped!) contain these bugs. Can't win really. Like you, I re-use plastic carriers in my kitchen waste bin, try to use as few plastic bags as possible and always re-cycle whatever rubbish I can. I even cut up old letters , flyers etc which have one clean side of paper into smaller pieces for shopping lists and phone messages.
Linda said…
We will probably be banning supermarket plastic carrier bags in England in a couple of years. However, there are now doctors saying that reusing plastic bags, so-called 'Bags for Life' can encourage salmonella and eColi type diseases because re-using plastic bags that have previously carried raw meat(even if it is plastic-wrapped!) contain these bugs. Can't win really. Like you, I re-use plastic carriers in my kitchen waste bin, try to use as few plastic bags as possible and always re-cycle whatever rubbish I can. I even cut up old letters , flyers etc which have one clean side of paper into smaller pieces for shopping lists and phone messages.
I'm still using plastic garbage bags for the trash bin, but my neighbor down the street uses brown paper bags for noncompostable trash, which is what my mom used to do back in the day. It's got to be better than using plastic, right? Maybe I'll make the switch ...

Tammy said…
In the US it is a city by city decision to ban plastic bags. One question that people keep coming up is what will be the substitute for wrapping meat and delicate veg (think mushrooms) for carrying around in the cart/trolley/buggy (did I get each country's name for rolling basket?). How will Tasmania be handling that aspect?

Like you, I would be at a loss without them because I use them for after I scoop out the cat box. I need one a day. It would be horrible if the law forced the purchasing of yet more plastic!
Anonymous said…
We buy our spuds in 10kg bags from Youngs so we have a stash of them that can be used for a while. I stopped eating spuds and Steve doesn't hold a candle to my previous stellar efforts so we use a lot less spuds but still generate the same amount of rubbish. I guess we might all have to resort to thinking about the rubbish that we generate now rather than just mindlessly tossing it. I know that your family and my family give a damn but most families just hurl it into the rubbish and could care less about the outcome. You can be sure that there will be some rubbish bag equivalent, boxes, large cardboard bags and brown paper bags are all good options but like you, we rely on those supermarket bags for our rubbish. A new conundrum arises! As for the tights, buy them...open the bag... hand it back to the person that sold you the tights and say "I don't want this, I only want the tights...can you please dispose of it!" If more people did this, you can bet they would reconsider the packaging ;)
Heather said…
I use brown paper bags that I get from the market. If you don't have those, maybe cardboard boxes. You could probably use a thick, sturdy one quite a few times before it got too yucky. Or just use your rubbish bin unlined and wash it out every week so it doesn't get too gross.
Judy said…
I have been thinking about doing what Heather suggests, using my rubbish bin unlined and washing it out. Although it attracts flies in summer.

My main problem is the meat bones or fat that need discarding. I tried using a 'Green Cone' a few years back. You can put bones, bread and even cat litter in it and it decomposes. There is a cage at the bottom which is sunken into the ground, with a cone above, but our ground is such thick clay that it wouldn't drain and I had to give up with it.

Looking for re-usable options rather than disposable products is the real solution. Things like handkerchiefs instead of tissues and a Mooncup instead of sanitary products helps cut down on waste. But cotton wool buds are a real problem. Has anyone found a re-usable alternative?
Jenny said…
we don't use bin liners in our kitchen bin. Nothing particularly mucky goes in there but if there is something I wrap it in paper, it's a great way to do something useful with all those catalogues. Just wash the bin out after you empty it to freshen it up.
Jo said…
Oh, I was so excited to sit down with my first cup of tea of the day and see all these ideas pop up in the comments box! You are all so gorgeous and helpful!
Tanya, we certainly don't have anywhere near as much rubbish as we once did, but not quite at your stage yet, mainly because the children throw all sorts of things in the bin that should go in the compost. Maybe it's a matter of training...
But I like the idea of treating it like the recycling bin, and just wrapping individual mucky things. Really, it's a matter of mindset, isn't it? We expect to use a bin bag, therefore we must..
Linda, I am trying not to buy meat in plastic now, so hopefully won't succumb to bacterial infection, although never re-used meat bags, just in case. And I always fish a piece of paper out of the recycling for my shopping list!
Frances, I remember brown paper grocery bags from my childhood - we used them as the basis for many a creative dress-up costume. But I haven't seen one in years. I don't think they are even available in grocery bag size to buy here. Anyone? So sad :(
Tammy, produce bags haven't been banned, just grocery bags, so people can still corral their apples. One supermarket chain is providing compostable ones. I have been reusing mine, hoping to find a good substitute, possibly (gasp) even sew some!
We don't use plastic bags for kitty litter - it's The Girl's job to scoop and flush every day, and the used kitty litter gets tipped straight into the wheelie bin every week.
Fran, of course, I buy 10kg of spuds at a time too, and recycle the bags. Der!
I know in Germany where recycling laws are much stricter, people do exactly that, handing back packaging at point of sale. If only I was brave! And I LIKE the nice ballet shop lady, and it's not HER that makes the packaging. Oh, oh, oh! What to do?
Heather, I WISH we had brown paper bags. This is one way I definitely think we should be following in the footsteps of the good ol' USofA.
Judy, I am leaning towards going unlined. I have two, yes two bokashi buckets under the house, which I bought in the years when I believed I was going to save the planet by buying every new green product on the market. I haven't used them since we renovated the laundry, but I just stopped halfway through this comment, and went downstairs to retrieve them! Apparently they will compost (that is, pickle) meat bones and fat so you can dig them into the garden or compost them. We shall see!
What we really need is the rag and bone man.
I hear what you are saying about cutting down on disposables. I don't like my chances of persuading the girls to use a mooncup quite yet, but I do. And re the cotton buds, do you remember the first scene in Shakespeare in Love, when the old nurse is cleaning out Gwyneth Paltrow's ears with something that looks like a long ivory chopstick with a tiny spoon on the end? Perhaps the antique section of ebay??!!
Hi Jenny, so lovely to see you here! I am beginning to think that not using a bin liner might be an option. It is just such a foreign one to get my head around. It sounds so silly, especially as I am so set against disposable plastic, but it's just what people do.. aren't I programmed well!
But if I don't have plastic meat trays, and I compost everything else, well it might be fine.
Thankyou so much for all your input so far, keep the ideas coming, and stay tuned for what my family thinks about my latest whacky green plans..
Anonymous said…
We are terrible at forgetting to take the reusabe bags when we go shopping. You've shamed me into action on that a few posts ago so I've been making the effort but as I'm not the one doing the shopping most times...
A friend uses a newspaper to line her bin but as I think about it, most things in our bin don't really need wrapping and taking the whole bin out and emptying it into the wheelie bin is no real hardship really. A quick hose out and presto!
As for cat litter, I tripped across the idea once of using cheap potting mix instead of bought litter. I mean, cats poo happily in the garden after all. We then have a separate compost bin for their used soil which will become compost on the gardens where we have either 100% ornamentals or around the fruit trees. There's no risk for contamination then and the waste becomes useful. :)
Thanks for posting this as you've given me many great ideas and much food for thought about our own rubbish disosal.
Actually, you've started the ball roling on thrift too. I've seen several posts from fellow bloggers on the subject this week. You're starting mini revolutions with each post. :) Well done you. :D
And maybe TAsmania can lead the way for the rest of Australia with no pastic bags.
Jo said…
Jessie, interesting idea, re cat litter - so I could use that compost under the lemon tree hedge? I hate throwing out the cat litter (we tried using the recycled paper version, but the cats didn't like it. We've gone back to the el cheapo clay type).
The men in my house aren't very keen on taking bags to the shops either - is it not manly? So we get a number of plastic bags from their grocery trips too. What ARE they going to do now?
I am loving all the interesting comments here - I am getting good ideas, plus motivation to try something different. It is so much easier to be odd in good company!
jo - thank you and your readers for some great advice here. i use the supermarket stidy shoppign bags for my groceries, and hav actually bought plastic bags to line my indoor bins. maybe i should go to newspaper? i donlt go thru a lot of garbage, but it's stuff like the packaging that the rolled oats comes in, or the silver top from the yoghurt lid, or yes, sanitary products that need disposing of.
one thing leads to another - thank you again Jo (and everyone) for a really helpful and thought provoking post and ideas.
sorry for my appalling typing :-(
Anonymous said…
Wow! Some great ideas in these comments. And some interesting challenges.

Well done, Tassie.

But I don't get why shopping bags are banned but people can still buy plastic bags for their bins. I always wanted bought bin liner bags banned so people are forced to use shopping bags as bin liners.

I very rarely forget my reusable shopping bags. But always have my meat and watermelon put in a plastic bag as they both leak.

I hope NSW brings in container deposit refund scheme. I can't stand seeing bottles and cans everywhere. And I would vote for a total ban on little bottles of water.
Jo said…
e, I think this might be much easier to implement if I lived alone. Sometimes I get quite tired of living (more or less!) in a democracy of six!
Lucinda, yes, yes to watermelon, no to meat, Pyrex doesn't leak, and yes, and YES!
Could you just run for parliament in your spare time, and we will all vote for you!
Tonight when I did emergency run to supermarket for cat litter(yes, I know, tragic, cat won't 'go' unless
cat litter clean. She just cries and wiggles uncomfortably instead...) I asked the checkout lady about the left over plastic bags, and she said they were packing them up and posting them to the mainland states. So you may be lining your bin with Tassie plastic bags next week...
Hi there - all good comments I think.
A while ago I bought 6 re-usable drawstring bags from a enviro shop in a light cotton muslin material - easy enough to make if you can sew which I can't! (When I remember) I take them to put the fruit & veg in at supermarket. You get used to it after the first few comments from the checkout. Actually I try to avoid the big 2 supermarkets anyway with all their excess packaging.
It's the little things that add up.
cheers Wendy
Jo said…
Wendy, that's absolutely the kind of thing I want to make! Will have to put it on the list. Ha ha...
Lovely to meet you - had a look at your very nice blog - such a shame you didn't make it to Tasmania on your holiday. Better luck next time!
Bit late to the party, but that's thanks to a holiday! we almost never get shopping bags (but occasionally), otherwise, I'm known to use any plastic baggy - think ones from wrapping work shirts (can't dodge em), corn chip packets, cereal packets etc. Sometimes they are smaller, but it still works. Alternatively, I was going liner free for a while - the vacuum lint made the bin the dirtiest (I use bokashi for everything else, and I limit meat bones by being a picky so and so who buys things from the butcher without bones - no T bone steaks here). I wish you luck, I'm sure you'll overcome it with one of the many ingenious ideas here. Oh, and if my BF can adapt, your kids will come around for sure.

PS forgot to take my moon cup away - so annoyed to have to buy plastic wrapped tampons!
Jo said…
Hi Sarah, thanks for your encouragement - I'm sure those pesky children can't be harder to train than a grown man (well, nearly sure..). I have been paying close attention to your Wednesday rubbish weigh ins, and am always so impressed!

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