So what is happening?
After many years campaigning, a ban on plastic bags is on the agenda for a number of state governments.
Plastic Bag Free groups have been running local actions and collecting thousands of supporters. In 2012 Plastic Bag Free NSW volunteers have collected 12,472 signatures on a petition asking the NSW government to introduce a ban on lightweight plastic bags. On the 4th June 2015 the Plastic Bag Ban petition was presented to Bruce Notley-Smith (Member for Coogee) at NSW Parliament House; and Bruce triggered a parliamentary debate for 13 August 2015. Plastic Bag Free Victoria presented in August 2016, thousands of names to their Parliament and the Vic Greens have lodged a bill to ban the bag and other damaging plastics.
Importantly the Qld government will be issuing a Discussion Paper on a bag ban soon in 2016. We are lobbying for other states to join in.
A July 2015 Omnipoll revealed 63% of Australians (and also grocery buyers) support a ban on single use plastic bags from supermarkets and stores. 81% support the existing ban in South Australia showing public support grows once a ban comes into effect.
We have provided all state and federal environment ministers with the facts and a detailed policy position. While previous states such as SA and NT have banned plastic bags they created a major loophole by allowing so-called biodegradable bags - but these simply break up into small pieces (microplastics) and contain heavy metals. They need to be banned too.
Will our governments act?
What can you do?
Encourage your environment minister to support an effective ban, including the greenspin biodegradable ones:
- NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman (firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 8574 6390)
- Vic Environment Minister, Lily D'ambrosio (email@example.com) or (03) 8392 2100
- WA Environment Minister, Albert Jacob (Minister.Jacob@dpc.wa.gov.au) or 6552 5800
- Qld Environment Minister, Steven Miles (firstname.lastname@example.org) or (07) 3719 7330.
- Phone or write to your local NSW state MP / local Vic state MP / local WA MP/ local Qld MP - and tell them you support a ban on lightweight plastic bag
- Spread the word.
The Plastic Bag Free NSW coalition has sensibly examined transitional issues and proposed:
A comprehensive education program and structured transitional period.
There can be exceptions on the use of ‘barrier bag’ style plastic bags at relevant retailers as there are issues associated with the sale and transport of perishable foods (e.g. meat, fish)
Sale of plastic bag bin liners may increase (as has occurred in other states with bans) PBFNSW have limited concern about the increase in the sale of plastic bag bin liners as they are highly unlikely to become litter. PBFNSW would support access to reduced cost 100% compostable bin liners and investigation and education about other alternatives.
The ban should extend to takeaway food outlets and smaller retail stores. Research highlights that such stores are a significant source of plastic bag litter as plastic bags are used for a short timeframe and for limited items.
Effective evaluation and monitoring must be implemented alongside the ban with scope to modify and extend the ban if necessary.
To know more: read our fact sheet about plastic bags.