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Call to toughen bag ban


Lisa Cox

Lisa Charles with daughter Savanna, 4, at Kambah Shopping Centre.

Lisa Charles with daughter Savanna, 4, at Kambah Shopping Centre. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

ACT Greens minister Shane Rattenbury says the government's ban on lightweight plastic bags should be tightened to make sure all bags used in Canberra are compostable.

And the opposition has questioned a government survey showing that 70 per cent of Canberrans want the ban to continue.

The government's interim review of the plastic shopping bag ban, released on Thursday, found that 58 per cent of 600 households surveyed supported the policy and 70 per cent wanted it to continue.

Paul Fitzgerald. 
 "I think it's rubbish. It's something that's only in Canberra, if not one other place in Australia, but then they produce the plastic bags still and the plastic is thicker. We keep buying the bags and they still pile up. I question whether it's environmentally effective or not. We've got so much landfill." Click for more photos

What do you think of the ACT Government’s ban on plastic shopping bags?

What do you think of the ACT Government’s ban on plastic shopping bags? Photo: Katherine Griffiths

As well, 84 per cent of respondents said they now carried a reusable bag to the supermarket.

But the report said it was still too early to be certain the ban had reduced the amount of plastic bags going into landfill and noted other studies had found reusable bags needed to be used 11 to 14 times for the overall environmental impact of shopping bags to be reduced.

Canberra Liberals environment spokesman Brendan Smyth said the government was overstating the public support for the ban.

The Canberra Liberals went to the election in October promising to reintroduce free plastic shopping bags if they won government.

''Instead of a 600-person survey, we'll talk to the whole community and find out what they want,'' Mr Smyth said.

''It's interesting the way they've selected people to participate - I still get a lot of people saying bring back the plastic bag.''

Mr Smyth said the report also showed that the ''jury was still out'' on the effectiveness of the ban.

''It's very hard to see a net gain for the environment in this and that's been our position from the start.

''The government can't put any detail forward showing it's been successful.''

But Mr Rattenbury said the survey showed the ban had the ''overwhelming support'' of Canberrans.

The balance-of-power MLA said the government's next step should be to ban any shopping bags that were not completely compostable.

Mr Rattenbury said the interim report showed 94 per cent of Canberrans wanted plastic shopping bags to be completely biodegradable.

''Unfortunately, one unintended and perverse outcome of the ban, as it is currently legislated, is the provision of non-compostable and thicker plastic bags as a replacement to the banned lightweight plastic type,'' he said.

''Many of the bags that are called 'degradable' simply break into a thousand plastic pieces and never actually biodegrade. All in all, these substitutes run the risk of defeating the purpose of the plastic bag ban.''

The Canberra Times interviewed shoppers at Kambah Village yesterday and most said they were in favour of the ban. Tuggeranong resident Lisa Charles said she had found the policy ''a pain'' at first but was now happy to be using less plastic.

''The ban doesn't bother me,'' she said. ''I always take my own now and on the odd occasion that I forget, I buy a couple.''



  • When is the Govt going to stand up to the big Supermarket chains and introduce 10c for returning bottles, cans and milk cartons to recycling depots as they do in SA and NT.

    Date and time
    January 24, 2013, 8:19AM
    • I'll back the Supermarkets on that one - hands out of my pocket thanks - and I do recycle all.

      Date and time
      January 24, 2013, 9:06AM
    • It's not all about you though is it Steve? You may be highly responsible and never litter and always recycle but a good proportion of people do not, and it is about those people.

      By the way the biggest opponent to container deposit/refund schemes is the Coca Cola company who are philosophically opposed to taking responsibility for their product packaging.

      Barry B
      Date and time
      January 24, 2013, 12:53PM
    • The biggest lobbyists are Coke Cola Amital, Visy, Amcor not the supermarkets. As a child we used to get 20c for a big bottle here in Vic, can't remember when it stopped or the reason why.
      Blame the industry that makes the cans,bottles and the rubbish inside them.

      A country gal
      Date and time
      January 24, 2013, 2:18PM
    • @Barry B Apologies - I should have said "our" pockets.

      Date and time
      January 24, 2013, 3:55PM
    • Absolutely. SA has around a 95% return rate and the big players just keep trying to say its not effective. Why its not nation wide I really can't understand. Its environmental, it largely pays for itself, its user pays, it give many charity organisations a great avenue to raise money and for people that return the bottles there's no rise in the cost of the product. Incomprehensible is all I can say.

      Date and time
      January 24, 2013, 4:18PM
    • I must be missing something. If I didn't get plastic bags from the supermarket I would have to buy them to line my bin. Since I do get them from the supermarket I don't have to buy bin bags. So banning plastic bags from the supermarket would make no difference to the number of plastic bags I use. It would just cost me more.

      Or do most people buy bin bags?

      Date and time
      January 24, 2013, 5:18PM
    • I was one of the 600 they called. A charming lady claiming to be to be "from the ACT government" was clearly shocked when I described the ban as a waste of time and an excellent revenue raiser for the supermarkets. I base this on the deep breath she took before sprouting the benefits of the bag ban. (I suspect the reason the Greens didn't fare to well in the last election indicates that most Canberran's agree with me). My feeble brain enquires whether a quick look over the recent supermarkets sales of plastic bags would not give a clear picture on whether the bag ban has been the roaring success the ACT Govt. thinks it has been.

      Date and time
      January 24, 2013, 8:28PM
  • On garbage day I see the bins in my suburb filled to the brim with garbage enclosed in the supposedly re-use shopping bags that the supermarkets are selling for 15c so people just buy them and use them to throw their rubbish out in anyway. I hardly ever see people bring them shopping, they just keep purchasing new bags every time.

    Date and time
    January 24, 2013, 8:32AM
    • And? Still cheaper than buying bin liners.

      Date and time
      January 24, 2013, 12:21PM

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