Plastic not fantastic: funky alternatives to plastic bags

With single-use plastic bags at supermarkets pretty much banned around the country now, the alternatives are not only better for the environment, they can improve the way you shop.

When plastic became popular with consumers in the 1940s, the world was a different place. Post-war, plastic was the new way forward: cheap, convenient, modern. We decked out our homes with shiny new things. The last thing on anyone’s mind was the environmental impact of synthetic petrochemicals.

Years later, the effects of our poor management of plastic materials are truly devastating. Plastic manufacturing, consumption and disposal contribute to climate change, pollution and ecological devastation. Plastic bags in particular pose one of the biggest threats to marine wildlife. According to the Clean Up Australia website, Australians use 5 billion plastic bags each year, usually only once.

The cultural shift from a disposable lifestyle to a reusable one won’t happen overnight, but the Australia-wide ban on single-use plastic bags in major supermarkets like Woolworths and Coles is a great step forward. What are our alternatives to the less-than-ideal plastic bag? Plenty, it seems. The alternative choices are fashionable, forward-thinking and food loving.

Fruit & veggie produce mesh bags

Usually made of recycled materials or cotton, mesh bags are especially handy for your fruit and veggies. Rather than tearing off a small plastic bag from those giant rolls in the produce section of the supermarket, these bags can be used again and again. Plastic bags often need to be torn open to get at your goods, whereas mesh bags have a drawstring or slide closures for easy access.

They also keep your shopping neat and your fruit and veggies easily identifiable. You can pop them straight into the fridge and then they’re ready to go when you need to restock. Mesh bags mean no more purchasing of pre-wrapped produce (individually wrapped bananas, really?). Biome sells a set of 5 reusable mesh bags from $15.95 - each bag can carry up to 2kg.

Reusable food storage wraps

Made of cotton and beeswax, reusable food wraps are an excellent alternative to single-use cling wrap. With decorative prints available, they look much prettier in the fridge as well. Heating up leftovers for dinner is suddenly much more exciting - it’s like unwrapping a present. Australian small business Bee Wrappy make washable beeswax wraps in 5 beautiful prints, in packs of various sizes.

If you’re the crafty sort, you can even make your own reusable food wraps yourself - they’re actually pretty easy to make. Cleaning them is simple - just some lukewarm soapy water and a cloth. Reusable food wraps are also really versatile - wrap your lunch in one of them instead of using a plastic sandwich bag.

Mum and 2 kids in kitchen using food wraps.

String bags

For the ultimate in nostalgia and a way cooler fashion accessory than carrying around a supermarket bag, use a string bag. Try Farmer Drew for stretchy cotton string bags available in 7 colours (red, pink, tangerine, ecru, cobalt blue, green, and turquoise) for $25 each.

Red, white and blue string bag full of oranges.

Cane baskets

Woven baskets are very durable and versatile. Use them at the beach, on a picnic, at home for storage; just to name some scenarios. Baskets are especially great for market shopping when you just need a few items; with their wide opening you won’t squash your bread or produce. This beautiful French baker basket will do the trick at $54.95.

Natural doesn’t always mean better; everything has an impact on the environment when it’s created. However, if we think about our environmental footprint by disposing less and reusing things more, we’re making a big difference.

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