Mandatory bans or levies on plastic bags are the only way Victoria will successfully cut their consumption, said the state’s peak environment group.
The call follows a plan unveiled by Environment Minister John Thwaites at a meeting of all Environment Ministers today to set reduction targets for the small retail sector.
“This is a ludicrous plan. If Mr Thwaites is serious about cutting the scourge of plastic bags then a ban or levy is the only option,” said Environment Victoria’s Zero Waste Campaign Director Jenny Henty.
“For the past two years, major retailers have shown they cannot be relied on to cut plastic bag use, failing to significantly reduce bag consumption. We are dismayed that the Minister wants to extend such a failure to small retailers.”
“A levy or a ban is such a simple, sensible, easy solution and the longer we fail to implement them, the greater the environmental damage will be.”
By 2004, retailers were meant to have reduced plastic bag use by 25%. In reality they struggled to get to 20%. Just 4% of small businesses took part, whereas 25% were meant to have signed on.
Ms Henty said Environment Ministers must not kowtow to industry any longer. “For too long, industry has got away scot free, tinkering on the edges while billions of plastic bags choke our waterways, parks and landfill sites, maiming and killing thousands of animals.”
She said small businesses stood to benefit from a ban or levy.
“Free plastic bags force costs up, which is reflected in prices. A ban or levy would create a level playing field and small retailers would be better able to compete against the big supermarkets. Ideally, a levy would be placed on suppliers to be passed down to retailers, as the majority of plastic bags are imported.”
When Ireland introduced a 27 cent levy on plastic bags in 2002, use decreased by 90% over a six month period.