Move to phase out plastic bags confirmed

Thursday, 10 January, 2008

Peter Garrett has confirmed that he will move to phase out plastic check-out bags “by the end of the year” — if necessary with a legislative ban. The move follows an announcement by the Chinese government that it will ban the giving away of free plastic bags by June.

The move has been welcomed by Planet Ark Founder Jon Dee, who has campaigned for five years to ban plastic bags in Australia.

“For too long, plastic bags have been an environmental menace, wasting resources and killing marine life, birds and other animals. This move by the government is a big win for the environment that will be welcomed by the millions of Australians who have bought and used re-usable bags in recent years,” Dee said.

Dee sees no problems with the phase-out timeline that has been proposed.

“China uses more plastic bags every week than Australia uses in a year,” said Dee.

“If the Chinese can ban the giving away of free plastic bags by June, then there’s no reason why Australia cannot ban them by the end of this year.”

The phase-out is likely to take one of two forms. It could either be through a levy, where a charge is put on each plastic bag, or via an outright ban.

In Ireland, its levy has reduced the usage of plastic check-out bags by more than 90%. In Australia, Bunnings has reduced its usage of plastic bags by over 99% by charging 10 cents per plastic bag. Retailers like IKEA and the ALDI supermarket chain are already charging for plastic bags in Australia.

Australian towns like Coles Bay have also shown that a community-wide ban on plastic bags can work without impacting on local retailers.

The move to eradicate plastic bags will mean that retailers will need to start making plans to introduce more re-usable bags and paper bags.

“This ban will hopefully encourage more retailers to start using re-usable and paper bags,” said Dee.

“At the moment, billions of plastic bags are imported from overseas. If we switch to using paper bags made here in Australia, it will not just help the environment — it will help to boost our economy and potentially increase jobs too.”

“Many leading retailers like McDonald’s, Nando’s, the Body Shop and others have already been using paper bags and there’s no reason why other retailers cannot follow their example,” said Dee.

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