Monday, August 24, 2009

what to do with all the plastic bags?

One of the biggest surprises for me in my move to Tasmania from Adelaide, is the apparent apathy many Tasmanians seem to show for their natural environment. It seems to me that far too many just take it for granted. Perhaps as it is so abundant and expansive, it is assumed that it is somehow wonderfully resilient to abuse? Maybe the environment is seen as a resource, rather than as having value in its own right? Maybe our capitalist need to profit from the land shifts the way we think about our environment in a fundamental way? Now before I have 100 negative comments on the subject of this blog, suggesting that I have misrepresented the masses, I suppose I should clarify that I am not talking about the many, many wonderful active members of the Greens and environmental lobby groups. They are here and they are certainly doing their bit. Im talking about the vast majority the mums and dads at the local school. The kind of people you meet at Coles on a Thursday night doing the weekly shop.

Unlike Adelaide, where there is a ban on the use of plastic bags in supermarkets, the plastic bag in Launceston shops is still in plentiful supply and I am often a little astounded at the percentage of shoppers that don't bother to bring their own bags when shopping. Id say that only about half of shoppers I see have their own bags with them in the check out queue.

Recently, the Tasmanian Department of Environment was subsumed under the Department of Resources. This act was described by the Premier as a cost saving measure, but seems to betray a modus operandi that is quite chilling. State legislation to remove the plastic bag from our supermarkets is still a while off, and with rather mediocre advice available on how to reduce your carbon footprint, like this, I think we could be waiting a while.

So what do you do in the face of apathy? How do you jolt people out of their familiar and comfortable patterns of living? One can protest, one can lobby, one can lead by example. But there is another tactic which I am seeing as quite non-confrontational, and really quite potent. Art can be used to underline a cause, and can foreground an issue. Theres a Hobart artist, Nicole Johnson, who makes rather lovely vessels and sculptures from plastic bags. Just one of these woven receptacle uses about 22 plastic shopping bags. How cool is that? A self proclaimed environemntal artist, I like the way Nicole is making her point in a subtle way: that something needs to be done with all the these bloody bags that end up as landfill. That we might be able to turn an object of ugliness into an object of beauty. Better still, the vessels are unbreakable, pliable and rather lovely to hold. Ive always hated the non-descript colours of the placcy bag, but in this weaving of the plastic the colour is denser somehow, and a whole lot less insipid.


  1. hmm, i posted a comment a few hours ago..didnt show...ooops. i said something along the lines of wow, great muted colours! does she have a website and is this your peice or did ya take a shot in a gallery? . nice.

  2. Yup, its my piece. Birthday present...lucky me!

  3. It is great. It reminds me of a similar thing (container of sorts/bowl) I got for my bday as well which is made out of old telephone wires from South Africa (I think).