Tasmania looks to ban plastic bags

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 11th November 2010

Tasmanian Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, David O’Byrne, yesterday annouced plans to take a proposal to Cabinet to implement a ban on lightweight plastic bags.

“The Government is committed to reducing the impact of lightweight plastic bags on the environment, addressing littering and to increasing resource recovery and recycling,” O’Byrne said.

“We have listened to the community’s concerns over these issues and they are telling us they want to see action.”

Mr O’Byrne noted that South Australia took around two years to bring its ban on plastic bags into full effect.

“The South Australian experience has shown that a transitional period and extensive education campaign were a key part of the success of the ban.

“It would require legislation to be developed, and a phase-in time of between six to twelve months to allow for an adequate public awareness campaign, and for retailers to prepare.”

O’Byrne said the Government’s preference has always been for a national approach to addressing plastic bags, but the Environment Protection and Heritage Council has been unable to reach a resolution.

“That is why I recently sought advice from my Department on options for a ban, met the community champions John Dee and Ben Kearney, who have been incredibly active in this space, and also had discussions with the Greens on how we best move forward on this issue.

“It is important to note that plastic bags are only a small part of the waste stream. To address the wider issue of waste management in Tasmania, the Government is taking action through the Tasmanian Waste and Resource Management Strategy 2009.

“Through the Environment Protection Authority’s Waste Advisory Committee, we have already begun initial consultation with local government, industry and the community on potential ways to reduce the waste going to landfill and increasing opportunities for recycling.

“Our waste policy will see the further development of existing resource recovery and recycling markets and lead to the establishment of new and innovative Tasmanian industries.”

Ben Kearney and John Dee, Founding Directors of the Do Something! organisation, and the force behind the original ban on plastic bags in Coles Bay, today expressed their support for the proposed ban.

“I was pleased to hear the Minister’s commitment to moving forward on this important issue and particularly pleased to see tripartisan support for a ban,” Kearney said.

“This move will enable Tasmania to resume it’s global leadership on this issue and it will significantly benefit our environment. The Coles Bay ban reduced plastic bag use by 1.8 million bags. When this statewide ban is introduced, it will result in significantly more plastic bags being removed from circulation,” Dee said.