Change your behaviour, not the plastic bags.

Christ almighty I can’t believe how difficult it is to get this point across. How long will it take until Kiwis finally get it!??


I just watched the Seven Sharp piece on Friday night about plastic bags in which they interviewed scientist Michelle Dickinson (who I must disclaim I am a big fan of), but I am literally frothing with frustration.


We at “Bags Not” have been saying this now for 4 months and we will continue to say it until we are blue in the face, or the message finally gets through..


The whole plastic bags issue (and the whole single-use plastics issue for that matter), requires a behaviour change!!


A change of behaviour, not a change of material.


I have to say I am actually blown away that so many people just can’t get their heads around this. Instead they continue to discuss the environmental impacts of plastic bags versus, paper, versus cotton etc.


Paper is worse, cotton is worse, thicker plastic is worse. “Oh if it’s made out of cotton I have to use it 170 times.”


Exactly! That’s the flaming point! We have to change the single-use behaviour! How many times do you wear your shoes? Or use your phone? Or wear your underwear? (Well I hope it’s more than once, granted you can get edible underwear).


You use those items hundreds or maybe even thousands of times (I’m thinking of your phone not your undies). Imagine the state the world would be in if we used all of those items just once…? Let’s not talk about fast fashion just now.

Why has it become socially acceptable to use plastic just once?

And quick point, using your plastic bag again as a bin liner does not justify their use. You don’t need to line you bin. Try it, see if the world ends.


Plastic pollution is arguably a bigger issue than global warming, and right now there are wildfires burning in the arctic circle. That’s how bad this crisis is.


Plastic is a synthetic material that nature has no way of dealing with, and recycling plastics is a completely broken and wasteful process. Globally, somewhere between 9 and 15% of plastic is recycled each year. Over 300 million tonnes is produced.


All that energy used to collect, transport, shred, and then melt it down to then turn it into a new shape annnnd….it’s still a synthetic material nature has no way to deal with.


Recycling plastic is simply a emissions expensive process of delaying the inevitable. That plastic will all eventually pollute our soils, or oceans, or waterways.



It shouldn’t be called plastic, it should just be called pollution. If you saw an oil spill you would call that pollution. Plastic is solid oil and it has spilled all over our entire planet.




Did you know microplastics (that’s all plastic does in nature, break apart into smaller pieces of pollution) have been found in drinking water, bottled water, beer, salt, honey, fish, soil? It’s pretty much polluted everything.


How we get it out of the environment and restore our planet to pre-plastic times (which is only around 60 years ago, on a planet that is over 4.5 Billion years old) I just don’t know. And I have to sadly admit I don’t think we can. We are simply going to have to tell the children to trust us that once upon a time there was no plastic in our water (but don’t worry because our rubbish bin is clean).



But before we bother trying to get the plastic pollution out of our soils, oceans, and waterways (which many people around the world are trying so very hard to do), we have to stop making it. We have to turn off the pollution tap.




And look, for some uses it is going to be much harder to find a solution. I’m thinking of medical uses, long-life food packaging, the harder plastics we use to make our electronic appliances (known as thermoset plastics), and so on. That may be a case of only using recycled plastic, or using different materials, I don’t know.  


But, in the meantime, we have got to stop using single-use plastics. Bags, bottles, cotton buds, cigarettes butts, lollipop sticks, take-away packaging and so on. So much pollution that is designed and manufactured entirely for one use, which is a mere fraction of its entire life cycle. Anybody else see the stupidity in that?


So…(deep breath) the plastic bag solution is…to always take a bag shopping. Always!


And that requires learning a new behaviour..


The utopia position is that every New Zealander has a bag, or two or three, that are made from a natural material (cotton, hemp, flax, plant sugars, leather), or even better, a natural material that has already been used for something like clothing or curtains, or is leftover material from another industry. Those bags are then treated like our shoes, or phone or undies. They are used hundreds or thousands of times. And then eventually when they are falling apart, we put them in a compost so they can return to the soil.



That’s the circle of life. That’s how life has been rolling for 3 billion odd years. There is no waste in nature. We have to live within that model. That’s why the world is so out of balance, we are trying to fight that circular model.




So the key now is for everyone to learn that new behaviour and remember to always take a bag with them. Got your keys, got your wallet, got your phone, got your bags.


And it will take time, no doubt. Learning new behaviours and making new habits takes time. Hell,  it took me at least 6 months before I no longer had to hold my shopping in my arms as I left a shop (not just supermarkets!), but I got there in the end. And this would have been about 5 plus years ago, when you used to get given a plastic bag to carry your chewing gum!


However today, we could make it a whole lot easier and quicker for New Zealanders to learn this new behaviour .We could create a nationwide campaign around remembering to take a bag shopping. Actually helping Kiwis remember by providing them with simple, practical tips and tricks like putting your bag straight back in the car, or writing “bags” on your shopping list, or keeping your shopping list in your bags.


And if you did forget your bag one day (we’re all human…), well there was a bag made out of plant material at the store you could borrow (maybe pay a deposit on) and then bring back for someone else who one day forgets (and reclaim your deposit).


Hey guess what?  There is a nationwide campaign guiding Kiwis on this journey of change, we simply all have to go on. Oh, and there are bags being provided by stores for you to borrow and return.


Just guess we have to wait for someone to tell us about it on Seven Sharp…


Nick Morrison

Co Founder “Bags Not”


Go Well Consulting