Plastic bag chaos

The Australian Retailers Association has called for clear national direction – and clear thinking – on the use of plastic bags after attempts to introduce a national levy to reduce their usage fell over yesterday.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who has been pushing for the phasing out of plastic bags, failed to get the states to sign up to the national levy. He says that a levy would hurt already struggling families.

“What we’ve decided today is that there will not be a national mandated charge on plastic bags in checkouts,” he says.

SA has banned the use of plastic bags from next January and Victorian shoppers will pay 25c a bag at two supermarkets as part of a pilot program. NSW is not prepared to act alone and is still calling for a national approach.

ARA’s executive director Richard Evans says he is very disappointed with the outcome. “We have no clear direction or leadership. We have Victoria going one way and SA another.”

He did welcome news that an urgent working group would be set up between government and industry. “We have been asking that the Federal Government engage with industry since 2002.”

Evans believes the problems with plastic bags have been overstated by the green lobby. “So called green bags have four times the carbon footprint of a plastic bag.”

He also says that charging for plastic bags will cause problems at the checkout.

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