THE Waterline community is taking a tough stance against plastic bags, moving to ban them in three key locations to protect local marine life and the environment.
At an official launch on Friday, the Coronet Bay and Corinella General Stores, and the Corinella and District Community Centre, were deemed plastic bag free zones.
Although faced with some criticism that it wouldn’t make a difference, Coronet Bay store owner Christine Slavin and Corinella’s Barbara Oates are determined to change habits in the small coastal communities.
It comes after alarming statistics which show Australians collectively use four billion plastic bags a year.
And all of those bags are either going out to sea and killing marine life or taking 400 years to break down in landfill.
“It’s almost like a love affair,” said Plastic Bag Free Bass Coast’s Annette Read.
“When we discovered the bags they were great and we got lots of them, but it’s now a major problem because there is so many and we’re trying to get us and the community to break away from them.”
A few Bass Coast residents got together and formed the Plastic Bag Free Bass Coast group to help reduce the amount of plastic bags in the shire.
“We only use the bags for about 12 minutes but they take 400 years to decompose,” Ms Read said, adding that the bags are the fifth most littered item in Australia. They entangle seals. Turtles eat them because they think they’re jellyfish.”
She said saving wildlife is a big issue in Bass Coast.
“Plastic bags take up important resources including petroleum. People get upset when the price of petrol goes up but we are throwing away resources on things we don’t really need.”
The two stores instead have boxes full of ‘Boomerang Bags’, which can be used and returned or kept and used on a regular basis.
They’re an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic bags and can be re-used hundreds of times.
“What we really need is a ban on plastic bags, but with this groundswell we can keep taking little actions and we will keep pushing for a ban.”
Coronet Bay General Store owner Christine Slavin has been posting on Facebook about the changes, and asking customers if they “need” a bag, rather than if they “want” one.
“We’re even finding customers are thinking further and we have some who come in with plastic containers for coffee or sandwiches.”
She said as the new bin system has been completely rolled out and people have adjusted, it was a good time to ban the plastic bags in the two Waterline shops.
It’s a similar case at the Corinella General Store, where owner Barbara Oates encourages staff to ask, “Are you right with that?” rather than offering a bag.
“At the store, ‘bag’ is a dirty word,” she said at the plastic bag free launch on Friday.
“We must start somewhere and the community has been very supportive.”
She acknowledged some people do get caught short and so the store will be offering biodegradable plastic bags for 50 cents.
“The next generation are our biggest advocates. The Bass Valley Primary School knows the routine for rubbish sorting,” said Barbara.
At Coronet Bay, Christine has seen kids come inside with backpacks so they can fill their bags with goodies rather than using plastic bags.
“Kids don’t want to be riding around with plastic bags on their handle bars anyway,” Christine said, laughing.
Cr Clare Le Serve also attended the launch and spoke warmly of the joint effort between the two stores and the Corinella and District Community Centre.
“We are changing the mind shift after decades of using plastic bags,” she said.