Media Releases | 19th Aug, 2004

Stop hypocrisy on plastic bags

Friday, 20 August 2004

The Federal Government must stop pandering to big business and introduce a permanent ban on plastic bags, according to Victoria’s peak conservation group.

The call comes on the eve of this weekend’s 48-hour nation-wide plastic bag famine, which Environment Victoria (EV) said highlighted the Government’s hypocrisy.

“We fully support any attempts to reduce the curse of plastic bags but it is blatant hypocrisy for politicians to support a two-day ban when they dismally fail to make any meaningful inroads into a permanent solution,” said EV Sustainable Consumption and Production Campaigner Jenny Henty.

“With 6.4 billion plastic bags used each year in Australia, this country has an insatiable appetite for plastic bags. A famine will not make a lasting impact. We need a permanent ban, a way to curb the addiction.”

Ms Henty said the Federal Government urgently needed to impose a levy or ban on plastic bags rather than relying on the current voluntary code.

Federal and State Environment Ministers agreed to a voluntary reduction code in 2003. The code aims to cut by 25 per cent the total number of bags used by the end of 2004, and by 50 per cent by the end of 2005.

“The voluntary code is a cop out for the Government and retailers – particularly retailers who refuse to adopt best environmental standards. And the Federal Government is merely pandering to their mates in big business,” said Ms Henty.

“Big business is acting against the nation’s best interests. They need to start acting responsibly.”

When a 27cent levy was imposed on plastic carry bags in Ireland in 2002, use decreased by 90% over a six month period.

She said Science Minister Peter McGuaran last week compared the environmental damage from plastic bags to nuclear waste.

“Their use from the supermarket to the home lasts just minutes, but their existence lasts for centuries. Politicians acknowledge the problem but don’t match this rhetoric with action. Government needs to stop tinkering at the edges, acting in a piecemeal fashion, and get serious about abolishing their use.”

About 50 million plastic bags end up as litter. Only 3 per cent of plastic bags are recycled. About 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags each year.