Aussie Retailers Brave Customer 'Bag Rage' to Save the Planet
The Australian states of Queensland and Western Australia, as well as the supermarket chains Coles, Big W and Woolworths joined the war on plastic pollution July 1 with new restrictions on single-use plastic bags, National Public Radio (NPR) reported. But some angry customers have been fighting back in a phenomenon the press is dubbing "bag rage."
Woolworths decided to stop offering single-use bags on June 20, before the July 1 deadline, charging 15 Australian cents for reusable plastic bags instead, according to BBC News.
But one customer was so enraged by the change, he wrapped his hands around the throat of a Woolworth's employee, The West Australian reported.
"A male customer in the self-serve area swore loudly at a female worker," Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA) assistant secretary Ben Harris told The West Australian. "She provided him with some complimentary bags and apologised. He made a mistake by scanning an item twice, the worker came to help him remove it and he walked up behind her and put his hands around her throat."
The SDA surveyed 132 of its members and found that 57 had faced abuse from customers because of the ban, BBC News reported.
"I'm being told that I'm money-grabbing scum," one worker said in the survey, according to the West Australian.
The SDA has responded with a campaign called "Don't Bag Retail Staff," including a video in which a customer angrily demands to know why he can't get a free plastic bag, and a fish and turtle shopping behind him say, "Uh, I think you know why, mate."
Following the backlash, Woolworths announced that it would give the reusable bags away for free until July 8.
"They just want a little extra help from us to get through the transition," Woolworths Managing Director Claire Peters said in a statement, according to BBC News.
In response to the tension at Woolworths, Coles said it would open every checkout Sunday and have extra staff members on hand to help ease the transition.
"We are taking a proactive step," a Coles spokesperson said.
Despite the vocal minority of complainers, a statement on Woolworths' website says that three-quarters of its customers support the change.
"This is a landmark day for us not just as a business, but for our customers and communities, to help support a greener future for Australia. We are proud to say that from now on, single-use plastic bags are gone from our stores, for good," Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said in the June 20 statement.
Since Tasmania and South Australia previously banned single-use plastic bags, there are now only two Australian states that do not fine retailers for offering single-use plastic bags, according to NPR.
These states join the around 40 countries that have instituted bans on plastic bags, including Bangladesh, China and 15 countries in Africa, BBC News reported.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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