Oz state leads the way in bag wars

One Australian state is going it alone in the plastic bag wars after state and federal ministers failed to reach a national consensus on a ban.

South Australia will introduce an outright ban on single use carrier bags from January, state environment minister Gail Gago announced.

The pledge followed a meeting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) which decided not to endorse a nationwide ban or levy.

Just three months ago, federal environment minister Peter Garrett said he wanted to “get cracking” on phasing out plastic bags.

Ms Gago said: “Since states, territories and the commonwealth couldn’t agree on a single approach – whether it be an outright ban, retailer charge or federal levy – South Australia will be pioneering another important environmental step for our nation.”

She added: “We were prepared to be flexible in the interest of national consistency, but we are not prepared to delay such a vital step in meeting the world’s responsibility to act more sustainably.”

Ministers said they are already preparing legislation, and expect to release the draft bill within the next month. An education campaign will take place later this year ahead of the ban.

The EPHC agreed last week to “urgently” convene a government and industry working group to identify ways reduce plastic bags, which will report back in November.

In the meantime, more research will be carried out into alternative products such as biodegradable bags, and a national action plan on litter reduction will be developed.

Following the meeting, Victoria state government chiefs announced they are teaming up with the Australian National Retailers Association to run a pilot project later this year.

It will see a number of major supermarkets and retailers voluntarily place a charge – expected to be between 10 and 25 cents – on plastic bags.

Victoria’s Environment Minister Gavin Jennings said: “The actual charge to be used and the location of the trial are yet to be determined but it is proposed that at least one regional Victorian town and one Melbourne suburban centre take part in the trial to begin in August.

“Any money raised through this trial will go towards environmental projects.”

Kate Martin

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