Ban on plastic bags not justified: ANRA

Posted by Editorial on 19th June 2008

The issue of plastic bags has been the source of great debate over recent years with some calling for a blanket ban or levy to discourage use.

In April, the idea of a levy was discussed at a meeting of State and Federal Environment Ministers but was dismissed due to concerns it might be unfair to households already struggling with rising interest rates and inflation. The Australian Greens Party has since introduced legislation to the senate to apply a 25c levy on plastic bags. According to the Greens, similar laws have resulted in reducing plastic bag use by up to 90% in countries like Ireland.

The South Australian Government, however, have indicated that they will ban plastic bags from the beginning of next year and introduced legislation to Parliament today to make their pledge reality.

The Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) has since cited their disapproval of the plan. “The South Australian Government’s plan to ban plastic bags is not justified and will mean confusion for shoppers and shop workers alike,” ANRA CEO Margy Osmond said today.

Mrs Osmond added that the negative impact of plastic bags is limited by the likelihood of re-use. “Nearly all Australians re-use or recycle their supermarket bags – using them to line their garbage bins or pick up after their dogs,” she claimed. “According to government figures, about 98 per cent of plastic bags are recycled or disposed of in landfill. Plastic bags make up a very small fraction of landfill waste. All plastic constitutes just four percent of landfill.”

“In 2009, South Australians will have to buy green bags and bin liners,” Mrs Osmond added. “When Ireland banned the plastic bag, there was a 77 per cent increase in the sale of bin liners.”

Plastic bags supplied at supermarket checkouts and take-away food outlets in South Australia are to be banned from next May. Retailers will be provided with a four-month transition period, starting next January, to provide them to come up with alternatives, according to The Australian.

Other state governments will closely monitor the progress of the South Australian plan with adoption of similar laws in other states likely if the ploy proves successful.