The clock is ticking on heavyweight shopping bags. A number of states are seriously looking at addressing the problems these bags cause. Whilst the major supermarkets estimate that about 80% of their customers bring their own bag - that still leaves 20% who don't. On top of that are the department and non-food retailers who still provide bags, usually for free. The Boomerang Alliance has drafted a position paper and presented this to government. We would like to see it adopted nationally.
Our position calls for all carrier bags to be banned from free supply. If a customer has not brought their own bag, they should have to pay for a new one. We do not support voluntary actions by retailers but urge all governments to regulate retail shopping bags.
The goal for any policy must be to encourage reusable bags when shopping. We are now developing, with the National Retail Association, a reusable shopping bag standard. This will mean a bag that can be used multiple times for the same primary purpose (carrying shopping). An international rule of thumb is that a bag needs to be able to complete 125 shopping cycles, a notion we have adopted. Our position also requires that a bag must be able to complete these carrying 10kgs. It should also maximise the use of recycled materials, a minimum 80%, and have a collection service for recycling at the end of its life.
Current heavyweight bags, usually sold by supermarkets for 15 cents, are not used many multiple times. We have called for these bags to be sold at a minimum $1 to deter habitual use (with profits being donated to community organisations involved in litter and plastic waste campaigns). These bags should be phased out.
Australia has made tremendous progress on lightweight plastic bags in the last few years and bag litter has been slashed by an estimated 70% (based on QLD Environment Dept figures). Getting rid of other single use bags and making reusable bags commonplace is our next step.