Plastic bag levy gets ACCC approval

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 17th July 2008

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today released a decision proposing to grant authorisation to the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) to conduct a four-week trial of a 10c charge for lightweight plastic shopping bags.

The trial is proposed to take place at Coles Supermarkets, Woolworths Supermarkets and IGA retailers in Narre Warren, Wangaratta and Warrnambool in Victoria.

The pilot program, conceived in consultation with the Victorian Government, is proposed to commence in August 2008. The ACCC is also proposing to allow the parties to the pilot program to disseminate information and data based on the results of the program.

ANRA has put forward a pilot program that seeks to quantify the consumer response to introducing a charge on plastic bags supplied by supermarkets at three locations in Victoria. It is hoped that this data will assist retailers and governments to form a consensus on how best to reduce plastic bag use.

“The ACCC considers that the proposed trial has the potential to result in benefits to the public, by providing some evidence of the extent to which the charge will reduce bag usage and by assisting governments to determine the most effective way to achieve their goal of reducing plastic bag consumption,” ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today. “The ACCC notes that consumers in Narre Warren, Wangaratta and Warrnambool can avoid the charge on plastic bags by bringing their own carry bags.”

Any profits made by retailers charging for plastic bags during the trial will be donated to environmental projects agreed to by the Victorian Government and ANRA.

The ACCC has not made an assessment of the benefits and detriments of imposing a permanent charge for lightweight plastic shopping bags due to the short-term nature of the trial.

Foodworks, Target and Kmart are among a number of other retailers also considering participating in the trial.

The data from the trial will be collected and analysed by an independent body before being considered at the next meeting of State, Territory and Commonwealth Environment Ministers (EPHC) in November 2008. The South Australian Government has already committed to introduce a complete ban on plastic bags by the start of next year.

The ACCC is seeking submissions from interested parties in relation to its draft determination by Monday 28 July 2008. The ACCC’s draft determination will be available on the ACCC website (www.accc.gov.au).