• 2018.07.10
  • No More Free Single-use Plastic Shopping Bags
As of July 1, 2018, Queensland, Australia ends the free distribution of those single-use vinyl plastic bags you get when shopping (regi-bukuro in Japanese). If you need a bag, you will now buy either a 15 cent (about JPY 12 yen) vinyl bag, or a reusable shopping bag called an “eco bag” for about 100 yen. The major supermarket chain Woolworths removed single-use bags earlier than other stores, beginning on June 20th. And it’s not just major supermarkets. Convenience stores, restaurants, drug stores, liquor stores, and other retail stores are affected by the changes.

Will all vinyl bags be abolished? No. Bags for fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and other products that are sold as-they-are without packaging, trash bags, bags for diapers, vinyl bags for dog poop, and those thick plastic bags with handles or hand-holes that you can get at department stores and the like are not going away.

Definitely, disposing raw garbage directly into the garbage pail is smelly and causes problems with hygiene. But I have been putting my trash in plastic shopping bags I get from the supermarket to throw it away, so I will now have to buy bags for trash. And if we are going to use bags for trash, wouldn’t it be better to just reuse plastic shopping bags? …

Well, I thought so. But there are actually 16 million bags per year that are just being thrown in the garbage instead of being used as trash bags.

Getting rid of single-use plastic shopping bags reduces waste, and is part of the movement to protect the environment. In Australia, about 15,000 tons of plastic per year gets disposed in the ocean, causing quite a lot of harm when sea turtles, sea birds, and other ocean life mistakenly swallow them. Just in plastic bags alone, Australia uses about 3.9 billion bags per year overall, of which about 16 million are used in Queensland. That’s the combined weight of 96 subcompact cars.

Australians are basically sensitive to environmental issues. They use water carefully, and they don’t leave trash on the beaches. Unlike Japan, they don’t use excessive packaging. Vegetables and fruits and such are sold by weight, and when you shop they ask you if you need a bag. Major liquor stores save the cardboard boxes used for shipping and place them near the checkout counters, where they can be reused for packing customers’ purchases in.

They don’t do such things as putting products in new boxes just to make them attractive to shoppers. And, unlike Japan, they do not offer free wrapping. So you have to buy your own wrapping paper, ribbon, and a paper bag for the gift to be carried in. Department stores, and even supermarkets, provide a corner where they sell wrapping products alongside birthday cards and other greeting cards.

Consumers interviewed on TV news about this program have generally responded positively, some laughing about forgetting their bags in the car – others saying there’s no problem for them, because they’re already bringing their own bags. Most approve, because it’s not good to have waste just piling up.

Until I get used to this, I’m also likely to regularly forget my shopping bag and be stuck buying one. Usually, I only carry a few things with me, and a small purse has been all I need. But now I need an eco bag that can be folded up small to fit in my purse.

Programs to protect the environment will be on the increase.

Photo 1 (left) : Notice of the end of free plastic shopping bags at a supermarket.
Photo 2 (right) : Countdown on a blackboard of days until free plastic shopping bags go away.


  • Chieko Suganuma (maiden name : Nagura)
  • JobCompany employee

She moved to Australia in 2000. She worked for a Japanese-affiliated travel agency, and then started her current position at a construction company in 2014.On her days off, she enjoys making soy candles that is a hobby of mine and walking on the beach.She hope to share rare lifestyle information from the local area with you.

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