National Retail Association launch campaign for plastic bag ban

The National Retail Association (NRA) has launched a campaign that calls on Queenslanders to get behind the state government’s 1 July ban on single-use plastic shopping bags.

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said retailers had long-supported the idea of industry-wide action to combat toxic plastic bag pollution.

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“Our industry is behind the State Government for making this a non-negotiable for all stores right down to the smallest takeaway outlets, local markets and online stores, as it’s a crucial step toward changing overall consumer behaviour,” Ms Lamb said.

Global plastic bag pollution has reached with around 5 trillion plastic bags used every year, an estimated 160,000 every second according to statistics from Oceanwatch Australia.

“We know we’ve reached a tipping point and the retail industry is right in the thick of it as consumers demand more transparency into how the products they buy are produced, so they can support brands with ethical production methods and environmentally sustainable practices. Banning lightweight plastic shopping bags is another important step in creating a future-proof industry,” Ms Lamb said.

From 1 July, no retailer in Queensland will be allowed to give out single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags under 35 microns thick, risking fines of up to $6000 per offence.

Ms Lamb has asked shoppers to be patient with retailers during the transition period.

“Consumers will need to prepare by either bringing their own reusable bags and should expect to pay a small fee of around 15 to 20 cents for a basic reusable option, through to as much as five dollars for locally-made jute or hessian bag,” she said.

It’s up to all of us to do our bit. It’s a small change in our routine for a big impact on Queensland’s environment.”

New report urges caution for biodegradable bags

A new report from Europe has found issues with testing on biodegradable plastic bags and urges caution when considering whether they should be exempt from plastic bag bans and levies.

Jesse Harrison and co-authors argue in the report that existing industry standards and test methods are insufficient when it comes to predicting how biodegradable plastic bags break down in lakes, rivers and marine environments.

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The Biodegradability standards for carrier bags and plastic films in aquatic environments report was commissioned by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and involved the University of Edinburgh, the University of Vienna, and the University of Helsinki.

said the data obtained by current standards, test methods and specifications can significantly underestimate how long it takes for polymer biodegradation in natural ecosystems.

“Existing biodegradability standards and test methods for aquatic environments do not involve toxicity testing or account for potentially adverse ecological impacts of carrier bags, plastic additives, polymer degradation products or small plastic particles that arise via fragmentation,” the report said.

Auckland University of Technology Professor Thomas Neitzert said this research helps destroy the current thinking a plastic bag with a biodegradable label is safe for the environment.

“The co-existence of conventional plastic bags and so-called biodegradable plastic bags of compostable materials is also upsetting current recycling operations and is confusing the general public,” Dr Neitzert said.

“The current standards are not taking properly into account real-life conditions and are therefore underestimating the break-down times of plastic materials.

“The standards are also not accounting for the damage of break-down particles on marine life when they are digested. A biodegradable plastic bag is potentially dangerous to marine life from the moment it enters the water until it dissolves into micro- or nanoparticles over many years,” he said.

University of Waikato Professor Kim Pickering said the review provided an excellent overview of the current assessment of biodegradability, including its shortfalls.

“It is important to assess how long things take to degrade in real situations and also what they break into and the consequences of that and we need to address such shortfalls,” Dr Pickering said.

“If it is to be assumed that we cannot prevent some plastic products getting into the environment, then biodegradable plastics could be a step in the right direction (depending on the product),” she said.

“It shows that there are great uncertainties regarding the impact these could have on the environment and so we should still assume responsibility of waste and consider its disposal, whether biodegradable or not.”

Retailers urged to prepare for QLD plastic bag ban

With less than 50 days until the Queensland plastic bag ban comes into effect, the state government has reminded retailers to be prepared.

Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch said Queenslanders use almost one billion plastic shopping bags each year.

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“This figure is astonishing. If you laid out all of these bags, end to end, they would reach from Coolangatta to the top of Cape York more than 160 times,” Ms Enoch said.

“And sadly about 16 million plastic bags end up in our environment every year.

“The ban will also help keep our state beautiful for generations to come and reduce the impact of plastic pollution on our treasured environment and wildlife.”

The Queensland Government is aiming to reduce the amount of single-use plastic items in an effort to tackle plastic pollution.

From 1 July, retailers will no longer be able to supply single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns in thickness to customers, for free or at a charge.

Ms Enoch said it was pleasing to see some retailers already replacing plastic shopping bags in preparation of the ban.

“It’s also an important time for households to starting planning of how they can use reusable shopping bags when visiting the shops.

“Most household are likely to already have alternative bags they can use such as reusable ‘green’ bags or bags they use every day, like a backpack. Make sure you take them with you when you go shopping or to collect a takeaway, and keep them by the front door, in your car or in your bag.

“Regardless of which reusable shopping bags you use, to maximise the environmental benefit it’s very important that you use them over and over again and recycle them at their end-of-life, where possible,” Ms Enoch said.

The plastic bag ban applies to all retailers which supply single-use light weight plastic shopping bags.

Retailers that continue to supply banned bags after 1 July could face a fine of up to $6,300 per offence. A similar fine also applies to any person, such as a supplier, who provides misleading information about banned bags.

WA community want plastic bag ban

Community consultation in WA has found that more 95 per cent of comments on banning plastic bags have been positive.

The ban will affect lightweight plastic bags from 1 July 2018 in order to reduce litter and protect the environment. The ban also includes biodegradable, degradable or compostable – with handles and a thickness of 35 microns or less, often found in supermarkets and retail stores.

More than 4400 people responded by the close of consultation and 90 per cent were also in favour of banning biodegradable, degradable or compostable plastic bags which continue to persist in the environment as microplastics.

The consultation reported a need for a transition period for retailers to prepare customers for alternatives to plastic bags. The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has announced it will assist retailers in this process.

A WA-wide education campaign will also aim to ensure consumers are encouraged to use reuseable bags.

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said he wants to work with the community to make the transition towards a plastic bag free WA as easy as possible.

These initiatives reflect the community’s desire to work together to reduce the significant impact of plastic bags, and other waste and litter on our environment,” Mr Dawson said.

“Banning plastic bags is just one of a number of strategic waste reform initiatives demonstrating this Government’s commitment to reducing waste. We have also committed to introducing a container deposit scheme,” he said.

McGowan Government gives green light to bag ban

Lightweight, single-use plastic shopping bags will be banned in Western Australia from July 1 next year.

The statewide ban will bring Western Australia into line with South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory which already have plastic bag bans in place. Queensland has also vowed to ban the bag from July 1, 2018.

Plastic bags make up a relatively small portion of solid waste and litter but can significantly harm marine wildlife and birds which can inadvertently eat or become entangled in plastic bag waste.

The WA government said its plastic bag ban has garnered widespread support across the local government sector in recent months and among major retailers which are some of the biggest suppliers of plastic shopping bags.

Major supermarkets Coles, Woolworths and IGA have indicated their intention to ban single-use plastic bags while some WA retailers – including Aldi and Bunnings – already support the ban by not offering single-use plastic bags to their customers.

“The community and the retail industry have already been working to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic bags for more than a decade,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said.

“The number of plastic bags used every year continues to grow and therefore it’s time for the State Government to act, in the absence of a national approach.

“There are alternatives to single-use plastics and we need to move beyond single-use items and promote sustainable futures for our children.”

“We will continue our efforts to reduce the amount of waste generated, prevent littering, increase material recovered from the waste stream, and reduce waste destined for landfill,” said Environment Minister Stephen Dawson.

The Project pairs with Clean Up Australia to ban the bag

Plastic bags for recycling

Channel Ten’s The Project is leading a campaign with Clean Up Australia to ban plastic bags in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

On Wednesday night’s show, written by host Waleed Aly and The Project‘s managing editor Tom Whitty, state premiers were urged to have the courage to ban the bags to save the environment.

Aly challenged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, and WA Premier Mark McGowan to step up.

“A Senate Inquiry into marine plastic pollution from last year recommended the federal government support the states to ban plastic bags,” Aly said.

“Unless we give them a push, nothing will change, and you and I will keep using plastic bags. But we can change this. You can change this. So now’s the time to be heard.”

Clean Up Australia has endorsed the push.

If the states agree, it would result in a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags, with South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT having already banned them, while Queensland plans to ban them from next year.

Viewers were urged to sign a Change.org petition to show their support for a ban, as well as writing to each state premier. The petition received almost 6000 signatures in half an hour.

Aly said each plastic bag is used for 12 minutes on average – then up to 6 billion each year are thrown into landfill across Australia, taking hundreds of years to break down.

Terrie-Ann Johnson, managing director of Clean Up Australia, said people don’t really think about the environmental impact of plastic bags.

“It’s really frustrating because these things are having an enormous impact on the environment. They’re killing our precious wildlife. We don’t need plastic bags,” she told The Project.

“Let’s put aside landfill for a minute and think about the 80 million plastic bags that end up in our litter stream. Think about the poor animal in the marine environment that chokes or it starves because it’s got a gutful of non-nutritious material. It’s a horrible, horrible death.

“Internationally, Australia is really lagging behind the rest of the world.”

Federal environment minister Josh Frydenberg told The Project he supported all states introducing a ban, while supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths said they would comply with such a ban.