In 2005, every Australian state and territory agreed to phase out single-use lightweight plastic bags. However, only four have; NT, ACT, SA, and TAS. In November 2016, following community pressure, QLD also committed to ban bags.
A succession of victories for the campaign in 2017
In May 2017, the Boomerang Alliance identified a once in a lifetime opportunity to ban bags in the three remaining states: NSW, VIC and WA. We aimed to build momentum and increase pressure before the Meeting of Environment Ministers in June 2017.
We launched a crowdfunding campaign which raised a whopping $25,923 used to coordinate and support the work of 60 community groups across Australia - lobby decision makers, flood their social media accounts, organise stalls and rallies, visit electorate offices, write letters to editors, and keep this issue in the media spotlight (in coordination with War on Waste and The Project). We ran a successful twitter storm (11,406,625 impressions), used Thunderclap on World Oceans Day to reach out to 941,681 people and send SMS to over 5,000 supporters asking them to ring electorate offices. We then sneaked into the NSW State of the State Conference. We covertly placed campaign material on each table calling for a ban and deployed a banner in front of the 650 high profile guests and the NSW Premier herself.
The Environment Ministers failed to agree on a national ban due to the intransigence of NSW but these actions led to Woolworths, Coles, Harris Farm and IGA announcing they were going to voluntarily ban lightweight bags in 2018. On September 2017, WA Premier Mark McGowan announced that plastic bags will be banned in WA from July 2018. A month later, Vic Premier Daniel Andrews followed suit. We don't have a time frame for the VIC ban yet but early action has been promised. That only leaves NSW to act.
NSW is now the only state to refuse to ban the bag
Community pressure works and together we are unstoppable! The #BanTheBag movement is rolling faster and now is the time to give another mighty push to the NSW Premier Gladys Barajiklian and her Environment Minster Gabrielle Upton. Let's win this campaign once for all
WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLASTIC BAGS?
Studies have shown that plastic bags pose one of the greatest impacts to ocean wildlife and with increasing evidence that even though a small percentage of bags are littered, they break up into smaller and smaller pieces –having devastating impacts on the environment. This includes so called ‘biodegradable’ bags, which are just as dangerous in the marine environment.
Plastic pollution is a major threat to wildlife. Globally it is estimated that 1 million seabirds and over 100,000 mammals die every year as a result of plastic ingestion or entanglement. Of great concern are the secondary microplastics derived from broken up plastic bags and bottles.
With the CSIRO Marine Debris Report 2014 estimating there are over 124 billion individual pieces of visible plastic littering the Australian coastline and a large legacy of plastic from previous years becoming microplastic – it is evident that action needs to be taken on multiple fronts.
It is estimated that some 180 million bags enter the Australian environment every year. That's 5.8 bags a second. The Senate Inquiry also called for a ban on bags, stating: “The committee recommends the Australian Government support states and territories in banning the use of single-use lightweight plastic bags. In doing so, the Australia Government should ensure that alternatives do not result in other pollutants entering the environment.”
**UPDATE** Dr Trevor Thornton’s comments, reported by SBS on Friday, suggesting that more evidence is needed to justify banning plastic bags, are entirely misdirected. Plastic bags may only constitute 1% of Australia’s litter, according to the National Litter Index, but the impacts on the natural environment are far more significant and far reaching.
Read our full response here.