Single-use Lightweight Plastic Bags

Single-use Lightweight Plastic Bags

(Discussion on Petition, 13 August 2015, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I strongly support the petition, and I join communities across New South Wales to call for a ban on lightweight single-use plastic bags. I commend the member for Coogee for presenting this petition to the Parliament. I commend all the speakers, including the Minister, for their contributions. Single-use plastic bags are wasteful and unnecessary. Most end up in landfill, others end up as litter and too few—only about 15 per cent—get recycled. Plastic bags are found across the waste stream, including in and adjacent to waterways where they destroy thousands of wildlife species, such as birds, whales, seals and turtles, which mistake them for jellyfish. Plastic bags also block drains, contributing to floods in heavy downpours.

In 2008 Australians consumed almost four billion plastic bags. While subsequent bans in South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Tasmania will have reduced this figure, consumption is unlikely to have dropped here. The year after the Australian Retailers Association voluntary Code of Practice for the Management of Plastic Bags program to reduce plastic bags by 50 per cent in 2005 ended, plastic bag consumption in Australia increased by 17 per cent. The New South Wales "Who Cares About the Environment?" report found that people were avoiding plastic bag use significantly less in 2012 than in 2009. These figures show that voluntary programs will never make the necessary long-term changes.

The four-year review of South Australia's ban showed continued strong consumer support for the ban, with high use of reusable shopping bags both for groceries and other items. Consumers also increased recycling plastic bags, and lightweight plastic bag litter reduced by almost half. More than half of all consumers supported an extension of the ban to heavyweight single-use plastic bags. There was positive feedback from retailers as well. Banning plastic bags would reduce waste and litter while saving resources, including oil. There are alternatives to using plastic bags. Reusable bags are a great alternative and can be kept in the car, handbags or drawers at work. Retailers could provide recycled paper bags for a fee in instances when shoppers do not have them.

Under a ban, plastic bin liners will still be available to buy and the cost will encourage more prudent use. Other bags can be used as bin liners, such as empty cereal and pasta packets, and people will be encouraged to compost and use worm farms for food scraps. Free lightweight plastic bags have not been around forever, and I agree with the member for Coogee that we will get by without them. Retail outlets have not been distributing free plastic bags forever. They are not necessary and the community will easily adapt to life without them. A Clean Up Australia survey conducted during last year's Clean Up Australia Day campaign found that 91 per cent of people were in favour of a total ban on plastic bags from retailers. New South Wales should follow best practice and ban this unnecessary pollution.

Read what other MPs said HERE.

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