Manly Food Co-Op

If you’ve ever been frustrated by trying to shop sustainably, but receiving plastic bags you don’t want at the check out, then you’ll love the Manly Food Co-Op. A waste minimisation approach is hard wired into the DNA of the Co-Op, which was set up 20 years ago with an EPA grant for just this purpose. And it’s not only about plastic and plastic bags - it’s about finding ways to shop with absolutely minimal packaging across the board. So habitual shoppers here arrive with their reusable bags full of reusable containers.

There’s no end to the produce you can take home without any packaging you’ll later bin. From the vat of local Queenscliff honey you can decant into your own jars to the buckets of tofu, anything that can be waste free, is. And if you only need a teaspoon of that new spice you’ll never use again for that exotic recipe, no problem - because again you’re filling your own spice jar.


'There’s no end to the produce you can take home without any packaging you’ll later bin'


The Co-Op’s Chair Mark Kelly says that feedback from customers has always been positive, and they easily adjust to bringing their own bags. “As soon as people know, they come to your store prepared.” Naturally those new to the Co-Op won’t always have bags and even regular customers can forget them, so Manly Ecobags are available at a cost.

He can’t understand why any retailer would continue to supply single use plastic bags. He says the plastic to paper transition isn’t hard - you just need a little more space devoted to bags at the checkout area. “We need to get rid of our reliance on oil. You have got to think about where that comes from. You are taking things from the earth and making them into bad stuff, then putting them back. Even a biodegradable plastic bag takes thousands of years to break down. Take one home, bury it in your garden, and you’ll see - you’ll be able to dig it up for years to come.”


'Even a biodegradable plastic bag takes thousands of years to break down. Take one home, bury it in your garden, and you’ll see - you’ll be able to dig it up for years to come.'


At home, he’s been religiously refusing bags for about a decade. “Before that, we used to save them and we would have hundreds within a couple of weeks. It’s staggering how freely they just walk into your house!” He says the switch wasn’t hard - it’s all about habits. “What you have got to do is have them with you. Have them in the back of your car. Have them near the back or front door. Maybe if people knew the number of plastic bags used in Australia each year - just think, millions of people, even a couple of bags a week, that’s horrific!”

“You used to have to be a hippy to care about the planet but I don’t think thats the case any more. More people care about themselves and health of the planet now. So if they could do one thing to help - that that thing is no plastic bags.”