The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has slammed Minister for Environment and Conservation (SA) Jay Weatherill’s comments that South Australia is leading the nation with legislation to ban plastic bags reintroduced in the House of Assembly.

ARA Executive Director Richard Evans said South Australia’s plan to ban supermarket checkout style plastic bags by May 2009 is out of step with the Rudd Government’s uniformed national approach to plastic bag litter management.

“The issue is not about plastic bags, it’s about litter management and requires national consideration and industry participation.

"Rather than working with other governments to tackle this issue on a national scale, it seems the South Australian Government is more concerned with populist politics and Weatherill’s favouring of heavy-handed legislation will not resolve the complex issue of plastic bag litter management and its supposed impact on the environment,” said Evans.

According to Evans there are over 4.5 billion bags used by consumers each year in Australia, 75 per cent of which are reused. Plastic makes up only five per cent of landfill and 50 per cent of that is packaging.

“The picture Weatherill paints of plastic bags dancing around our streets, parks and beaches is wrong. Statements about marine and wildlife deaths from plastic bags are misleading and are typical of the emotional rhetoric surrounding this debate.

“The reality is that any proposed bans or levies on plastic bags are knee-jerk reactions that will have little environmental benefit and will ultimately be a cost to consumers who are already struggling with increased interest rates, petrol and grocery prices, ” said Evans.