A fight over plastic bags is coming

The retail industry wants a say in the plastic bag debate.

Richard Evans, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, is concerned that business groups are being ignored as the Federal Government prepares to tackle the use of plastic bags.

“As the peak representative body for retail we should be consulted, as we are concerned about the level of misinformation being spread in the media about the environmental impacts of plastic bags,” Evans says.

The plastic bag issue has been under the spotlight after a leaked Federal Government report showed Australians last year used a billion more plastic bags, a rise of 40% on 2006.

South Australian Premier Mike Rann flagged legislation earlier this month that would ban retailers from giving away free plastic bags.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett applauded the Rann move and pledged to make non-reusable plastic bags a national issue – citing a gradual phase out of their use, although ruling out a levy.

ARA’s Evans believes that industry and consumers will ultimately foot the bill for any non-voluntary action on plastic bags.

“The Productivity Commission has already warned against the dangers of non-targeted solutions, such as bans, taxes and levies, with estimates of the economic cost approximately $1 billion. It has proposed much more targeted and effective solutions, leaving plastic bag use where it is the best option,” Evans says.

Speaking to ABC radio last week, Planet Ark co-founder John Dee urged decisive government action to counter the sky-rocketing use of plastic bags.

“The retailers have really dropped the ball in this voluntary phase out of plastic bags; they’re not doing anywhere near enough in stores to reduce plastic bag usage,” Dee says.

“The Federal Government and state governments should now be looking at either having a mandatory plastic bag charge, which we know works, or they should phase out these plastic bags altogether,” he adds.

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