Each week, Martelli’s Fruit Market in Cherrybrook Village in north-western Sydney goes through eight large boxes of new plastic bags, each containing thousands.
It used to offer green bags but the high cost and decreasing demand led it to shift back to plastic. The GEJI survey found 75% of its customers were using plastic.
“Plastic is too convenient,” says Steve Martelli, the shop’s manager. He believes the government should charge for plastic bags to curb their use.
Martelli uses 100% biodegradable bags because they are more environmentally friendly than ordinary plastic bags. They are, however, more expensive.
He also supplies cardboard boxes and although few people use them, those who do tend to return them. “It’s hard to limit plastic bags,” he says.
Rose Abouch, a regular shopper, said: “If they make you pay [for the plastic bags] you are more likely to use the green bags.” She usually shops at the local Aldi supermarket, where she pays 15c for each plastic bag.
Monica Farrer is a Martelli’s customer who says she remembers to bring her green bags roughly 80% of the time, although she finds them hard to pack and inconvenient.
When she does forget, she gets plastic bags, which she recycles as garbage liners. She believes straw bags would be a better alternative than either green bags or plastic.
The GEJI observers also surveyed Woolworths, where in a single hour on a Monday morning, 70% customers were women shopping alone or with their children. Of these, 67% used an average of 3.2 plastic bags each.
Even for the 33% who used green bags, their choice was more one of convenience than conscience.
“I just got sick of collecting plastic bags,” says one shopper, Caroline Henry. “A lot of people are aware of their [green bags] environmental advantages but buy them because they don’t want extra plastic bags lying around at home.”
For Rose Evans, a mother of two, green bags are useful for more than just shopping.
“Outside the context of the supermarket, reusable bags are being used more and more,” she says. “Unlike plastic bags, my kids can take the green bags to school.”
“People are getting the message,” says Cherrybrook Woolworths customer service representative Robyn Livian, adding that the store sells up to 100 green bags a day.
Woolworths cashier Eloise Latham recalls that customers were outraged when it was suggested to them that they might have to pay for plastic bags.
Evans understands the sentiment: “People would be really, really pissed off. However, it might make them use the green bags.”
Jake Willis, Anna Watanabe, Jamesina McLeod and Nesha Jeyalingam