Sydney supermarket shoppers are using more new plastic bags than those in other major cities, including Melbourne, London and Hong Kong, according to an investigation by Australian and overseas journalism students.
Laura Schneider and
in a video report
on the GEJI website
A Sydney survey of more than 4000 customers by UTS journalism students found that 79 per cent of shoppers still leave the supermarket carrying new plastic bags.
Parallel surveys of 7000 shoppers across Melbourne, Hong Kong and London put Sydney at the top of the bag heap with 2.5 new plastic bags per customer compared to 1.95 in Melbourne, 1.79 in London and 0.98 in Hong Kong.
Plastic bag use has been a focus of the first year of the Global Environmental Journalism Initiative, a project started late in 2008 by four Australian and five European universities that are leaders in journalism education in their countries. The project is being led in Australia by UTS.
UTS first year journalism students carried out the initial survey in March while environmental journalism students analysed the results and carried out further checks and background research during the year.
Reporting on the GEJI website, UTS international student Shushu He said the results had shown that voluntary attempts to reduce plastic bag use in Australia had been unsuccessful.
"The results for the two major Australian supermarket chains, which between them control almost 60 per cent of the Australian supermarket retail market, were even higher than the Sydney wide figures," Ms He reported. "Coles customers used the most plastic bags, averaging 2.5 per person, with Woolworths customers using 2.37 per person. Customers at the German owned Aldi supermarket, which charges for plastic bags, used only .59 bags each.
"The survey showed that on a widespread basis, Woolworths are failing to implement their official policy of not offering plastic bags to customers who purchase very few items. Direct observations of hundreds of cashiers at supermarkets across Sydney and Melbourne revealed that many checkout cashiers ignore or are not aware of the policy. Coles, who do not have a firm policy on this issue but leave it to the discretion of cashiers and shoppers, also regularly offer plastic bags to shoppers with one or two items.
"Unexpectedly, the highest percentage of people using new plastic bags was in Sydney's inner west, which has the highest percentage of green party voters in Australia. 83. 2 per cent of customers in Newtown and Glebe used new plastic bags and only 9.5 per cent used reusable green bags, again lower than in any other area."
Among the GEJI Sydney reporters were exchange students Imke Emmerich and Laura Schneider from the University of Hamburg, who were surprised by what they discovered.
"Before we arrived in Australia we were expecting it to be an environmentally-friendly place because we had read in the German press that your Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, was leading the way on plastic bags by taking action to drastically reduce their use by the end of 2008," they reported on the GEJI website.
"So when we first went shopping in Sydney, we were shocked to see how many people routinely used plastic bags. Even without asking, we were handed free bags. In Germany this does not happen in a supermarket. Normally you have to buy them for about 10 Euro cents."
Contact: Terry Clinton Ph: +61 2 9514 1623