Politics, Retail

Victorian government’s move to ban lightweight plastic bags slammed as “absolutely ridiculous”

Dominic Powell /

The Victorian government has pledged to ban lightweight, single-use plastic bags across the state after months of consultation, but the move has been slammed as “ridiculous” by the representative body for Australian convenience store owners.

If successful, the bag ban will come into effect in late 2019 and has been specifically designed to target bags mainly used by small supermarkets, retailers, and takeaway shops. The official cutoff for the banned bags will apply to those of 35 microns or less in thickness, meaning heavy-duty bags such as garbage or thicker reusable plastic bags will be in the clear.

“Barrier” bags, such as the ones used in supermarkets to hold fruit and vegetables, will also avoid a ban, as will animal waste bags.

The proposed ban is a follow-through from the state government after consultation with businesses and industry began in October last year, which resulted in over 8,000 responses and submissions to the inquiry.

Across Australia, plastic bag bans have begun to roll out over the past few years, with all states bar New South Wales enforcing or set to enforce bans on lightweight plastic bags come July 1. Major retailers have also fallen in line, with Woolworths and Coles recently banning the bag from their checkouts, and introducing reusable ‘green’ bags as an alternative.

In a statement released yesterday, Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio revealed that of the thousands of submissions, a whopping 96% supported a ban on lightweight plastic bags.

“Banning single-use plastic bags will slash waste, reduce litter and help protect marine life in Victoria’s pristine waters. We know Victorians want to do more to reduce pollution in our environment — we’ve received an enormous amount of feedback and they’ve told us loud and clear they want us to deliver this ban,” D’Ambrosio said in a statement.

“The government will continue to work closely with Victorian communities and businesses to design the ban — to ensure it works for all Victorians and our environment.”

“It will take the convenience out of convenience store.”

But speaking to SmartCompany, chief executive officer of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) Jeff Rogut harangued the government over the ban, labelling it “absolutely ridiculous”.

“When you look at the self-inflicted bag ban undertaken by supermarkets, there’s a lot of inconsistencies with that for customers. They claim the majority of customers want it, but I believe that’s not the case,” Rogut says.

“The vast majority of customers detest this imposition on them, and I think a ban of this nature makes very little difference when it comes to saving the planet.”

Rogut believes the state government needs to “get its priorities right” and the plastic bag ban is an intrusion on SME owners’ lives and businesses. While he says convenience store owners are “not huge users” of plastic bags, he claims it could cause inconvenience for customers.

“You don’t go into a convenience store planning to buy a number of things, so you don’t have [your own] bag to take your bottle of milk and bread or whatever. So when the business doesn’t have one, it will cause unnecessary aggression,” he says.

“It’s not a high-use thing in our industry, but it will make it inconvenient for both operators and customers.

“It will take the convenience out of convenience store.”

The government is now looking to establish a reference group of various retail, government, and industry representatives to help design the ban over the next 12 months. An education campaign and transition period are also slated to help SMEs adapt to the changes.

Rogut says the AACS will be looking to be part of the reference group, however, admits his organisation did not submit comments to the inquiry ongoing since October last year.

NOW READ: Woolworths and Coles make a clean break on plastic bags: Will the so-called ‘war on waste’ extend to SMEs?

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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