Plastic bag ban set for 2018 in Victoria

Woolies reusable bagsSingle-use plastic bags commonly found at supermarket checkouts will be banned in Victoria from 2018, with retailers cautiously backing the move.

The ban will come into place after a three-month consultation process with consumers and industry, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told reporters on Wednesday.

“In the first half of next year we will have a design scheme for the ban and a commencement date,” she said.

But while checkout bags will be banned, lighter-weight bags used for fruit and vegetable packaging will still be available. Heavier plastic bags favoured by many clothing retailers won’t be included either.

“Lightweight, single-use plastic bags have a disproportionate impact on our environment,” D’Ambrosio said.

NSW is now the only state in Australia that has not announced a plan to limit the spread of supermarket plastic bags. The Victorian Greens – who already have a bill in state parliament to ban plastic bags, microbeads and some plastic packaging – said the government’s plan didn’t go far enough.

“If the government were committed to addressing plastic pollution they would be voting for our bill,” Greens MP Nina Springle said. “Single-use plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy labelled the announcement “panicked” and “bizarre”.

“The idea is certainly worthy, but it’s been announced without any detail,” he said.

Retailers have shown support for the move but want to ensure consumers are aware of the changes.

“As retailers are already under a lot of strain, we will work with the government in developing practical solutions on this plastic bag ban to ensure there will not be additional costs,” Australian Retailers Association director Russell Zimmerman said.

Independent retailers have cautiously backed the move as it could save businesses money.

“I’ll be very interested to see how the consumers respond and whether they back this plan,” MGA Independent Retailers chief executive Jos de Bruin said.

The retailing body represents independent grocers such as IGA and liquor stores in Victoria. A previous Labor government, led by premier Steve Bracks, unsuccessfully proposed a ban on free plastic bags in 2006, forcing shoppers to pay 10 cents for the single-use bags.

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