WHEN I lived in Australia, one of my favourite TV programmes was the Gruen Transfer, a humorous series about the psychology behind advertising.
One segment, The Pitch, would set two advertising companies against each other, competing to win the best concept for something ridiculous, whether child labour, invading New Zealand or the benefits of plastic bags.
On the latter, one pitch for plastic bags showed pitiful attempts to buy squid from a deli, with tentacles oozing through a string bag, and some hapless fool picking up dog poo using a paper bag. But, as we head into Plastic-Free July, is it only the realm of slapstick humour to imagine living without single-use plastic bags?
I'm getting better at remembering my re-usable bags when grocery shopping, yet I still have a never-ending pile of plastic bags to use when pooper-scooping after my dog. Bread bags are my fav, immediately saving them from the dreaded single-use category.
I've just purchased some string bags for my fruit and veges from www.rethinknz.com online and New World is going to be stocking them, too - very kindly responding to my request. I'll be using those for my apples and carrots instead of choosing pre-bagged or tearing off yet another plastic bag from the roll.
My favourite bookshop Paige's has brought in compostable plastic bags, a big step up from so-called biodegradable bags. And - in another move popular with me - I'm stoked that two of my preferred takeaways, Victoria Fish Shop and Thai Express, now use plant-based starch packaging instead of polystyrene containers.
At home, I've started using double-lined, old school paper bags for my large outside rubbish bin, instead of plastic. They last for a few weeks, as long as you're not tipping super-wet waste in there. A tip from a wise friend - freeze anything too gross until rubbish day, then pop in your rubbish bag when it's time to hit the kerb.
If you're a regular takeaway coffee drinker and haven't invested in a re-usable cup, it's time for a nz.keepcup.com re-usable - they make great gifts, too, with a Star Wars series for the true fan. The award-winning, New Zealand-made and designed version is www.idealcup.co.nz
For my groceries, I inherited a set of www.thetrolleybags.com, which fit a standard shopping trolley nicely (although not wide enough for Pak'nSave's large trolleys). Or drop by Sustainable Whanganui at Maria Place and see what they've got there for free, sewn by volunteers who want to help people reduce the use of plastic.
I've been carrying a www.envirosax.co.nz shopping bag, folded in the bottom of my handbag, for more than five years - another great gift, coming in a range of designer patterns. They carry up to three times as much as a traditional plastic bag, and are obviously hard-wearing, given the age of mine.
I know it's hard to form a new habit when life is busy and grocery shopping is often done in a rush. That's why I'm a supporter of the latest call - this time from the mayors of Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, following Green Party policy - to introduce a charge on single-use plastic bags and hit us where it hurts - our wallets.
In New Zealand, we use 1.6 billion plastic bags a year - nearly one plastic bag per day per person, with research showing a plastic bag is used for an average of 12 minutes before it's thrown away.
Wellington mayor Justin Lester said when Britain introduced a 5p levy on plastic bags, they achieved an 86 per cent decrease in the number going to landfill. And this has been repeated around the world.
The charge prompts us to realise that taking a plastic bag has both an immediate cost on our pocket and a long-term one on our environment.
We've let ourselves become dependent on the ease and availability of plastic bags, forgetting it wasn't so long ago that we survived without these pervasive products.
It might be hard to avoid plastic sometimes but every little counts.
-Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, a Sustainable Whanganui trustee and works for Te Kaahui o Rauru. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.