I’m surprised there are people complaining about banning single-use plastic bags. My family began taking our own reuseable bags to the supermarket years ago so it’s really a matter of habit with us these days. Thinking back, I now remember when we made the switch. We were living in a third floor walk-up apartment. No lift. When were came home from the supermarket with our shopping we had to carry the dozens of those grey single-use bags up the stairs and with a bit of weight in the bags the handles became increasingly uncomfortable with each set of stairs we climbed. The reuseable bags were much more convenient and comfortable to carry.
I’m not referring to heavy-duty plastic bags that can be used several times. They too will eventually cause problems. The reuseable bags we prefer are the green bags or similar. There are dozens of varieties.
We made the shift for convenience not to protect the environment, but since then we have seen first-hand what problems discarded plastic and synthetic products can cause.
We live quite close to the ocean so enjoy walking along the beach as often as we can. Occasionally we come across plastic bits and pieces of things that have washed ashore but I’m pleased to say, not often. Recently we spent some wonderful days lazing on a resort beach in central Vietnam. The resort we were staying in was first class so the beach was beautiful and clean.
One afternoon we decided to take a long stroll along the beach. We didn’t get more than a few hundred metres from our resort when we came across a most disturbing scene. What, from a distance looked like rocks and pebbles on the beach, turned out to be debris that had been washed ashore. It was not possible to walk in a straight line without needing to step over or around large plastic bottles, bundles of styrofoam or other plastic things. All of which had washed ashore.
Synthetic rope was intertwined among the debris and it soon became obvious that we were looking at improvised floats for fish traps and nets that had at some time come adrift from boats that were fishing just off the coast. Thousands of boats it would seem. Bundles of flat styrofoam sheets lashed together to create a buoy and plastic bottles with rope attached for the same purpose. When we looked to the waves breaking on the shore we could see similar objects in the shallows that would sooner or later be left on the beach as the tide retreated.
We headed back to the clean beach at the resort. We did notice in the days that followed that the life savers patrolling the beach at the resort were constantly and discreetly monitoring the shoreline for debris. Yes, we did drag some lengths of synthetic rope and other debris from the shallows on occasion while we were there to lend a hand.
We could only wonder what the impact of all this debris was on the marine life and the fishing industry. We discovered the issue was not going unnoticed. Local groups were routinely trying to do what they could to clear the debris from the beaches and waterways.
We visited some fishing wharves at sunrise a few days after our stroll along the beach to see the fishing boats bring the night’s catch ashore. What a busy scene! Larger fishing boats tying up at the wharves, those little basket boats ferrying people about, women in their conical hats pushing large hand trolleys loaded with trays of fish from the boats up the concrete wharves, huddles of people buying fish. People and scooters everywhere.
Once the fish were unloaded the fishermen tended to the maintenance of their boats and fishing gear. We watched as one man sat on the side of his boat and lashed sheets of trimmed styrofoam together to form a float. Clearly he had lost some overnight and needed replacements. The trimmings from the styrofoam sheets went straight into the water.
If you have visited Vietnam you will know that the people are hard working and resourceful so we were not surprised to see the cheap, improvised floatation devices being used. Sadly, the lost or discarded floats are causing trouble.
Now I’m not saying I saw one grey single-use plastic bag washed up on the beach in Vietnam so you might think the two stories are unrelated. Yet they are not. Discarded single-use plastic bags in Australia and discarded styrofoam floatation devices in Vietnam are just two examples of the same problem. The pollution of our oceans and waterways. I have no idea how I can change the practices of the fishermen in Vietnam, but I do know I can get on with my life quite nicely without those single-use plastic bags from the supermarket.
The things you see when you travel can really make you think. I always enjoy coming home to blue skies, green grass and fresh air. We live in a beautiful country and it would be nice to keep it that way.