Sunday, 25 March 2007

"Landfill Lessons" published March 25

I’m not sure where the landfills live but wherever they are I’m sure they look like something out of a futuristic movie where tattered remains of Foodtown plastic bags flap menacingly in the post nuclear landscape of cockroaches and brooding skies. And I’m sure if there was a landfill at the end of my street I would have swapped to the green bag earlier, but instead I have a nine-year-old daughter to bring home the green bag message.
When my other kids were nine they came home with anti-smoking lectures. They both now smoke. My 18-year-old daughter was the dolphin girl of her generation so there were vague murmurings about only eating line caught fish for a while. When she went flatting last week she left her collection of porcelain/plastic/papier-mache dolphins behind in a box, all of them caught in dusty mid- leap no doubt wondering if the discarded Barbies in the box next door want to play sometime. These days my youngest daughter tells me that the Foodtown plastic bags will never biodegrade. Never, not even in a million years. Whereas wood will do it in a hundred and even metal will do it in a thousand years. All this ladled onto the guilt I still feel for using the 8760 (approximate figure only) disposable nappies which are steaming away in some North Shore landfill.
And so we have become a green bag household. We started with two a week ago, and now I’ve bought another five because a) the kids keep using them and b) I keep forgetting to take them with me.
And to be honest I’m not really that happy being seen with one casually draped over my shoulder because they are so damn ugly. Some genius obviously said to Foodtown: “Here’s a great idea, you sell your customers eco bags for 99c each, you save heaps of money by not having to provide your customers with the plastic bags and what’s more we’ll save on a designer fee because who cares if they’re ugly, they’re eco. And don’t forget we’re all working towards selling people something for free. It worked for water and Pay TV.” So as I head off to the shops I carry a bag which has a logo on it my nine-year-old might have drawn at the age of two. It’s a drawing of bag with two eyes and a vague smile. And circling the uncertain happy bag face are the words: HELP US CREATE A BETTER ENVIRONMENT. EVERY BAG COUNTS. It is also made out of another form of plastic commonly known as polypropylene which has a passing resemblance to a sanitary pad and according to Wikipedia has a recycling code of 5 which means it can only be recycled into auto parts and industrial fibres. What’s wrong with a bit of Hessian? I’m reliably informed by the nine-year-old that Hessian bags are produced from jute which is grown annually as a renewable crop. Also there’s just something about Hessian which says “I’ve been into saving the environment since the 70s” rather than the green polypropylene which says “My daughter talked me into this.”
Surely it can only be a matter of time before Karen Walker or WORLD decides that donating a decent design to Foodtown for their bags would be yet another cynical branding initiative and make my daily stroll down the road a little more stylish. If they can do it for Starship and cancer research surely the entire planet deserves a look in?
Recently I came home with a nice blue one from Brisbane Marketplace which has a graphic of the sun and some waves. And NOSH the gourmet food market has nice black ones although neither of them matches the Foodtown one for sheer size.
Which is great. You can fit the contents of three plastic bags into one green eco bag but then you’ve got to carry it home. Which is impossible because you’re weighted down with about 10 kilos of groceries in one hand. So you end up staggering along with it slung over your back with one hand supporting its bottom and the other hanging onto the handle, not unlike a Sherpa in the Himalayas only you’re in Grey Lynn and you look ridiculous.
But the good news and something which makes my nine-year-old very proud is that they work. Within two days we had no plastic bags left. A remarkable result but highlighting a rather tragic consequence. What are we going to use to pick up the dog shit?

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