The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) says the proposed trial to test a levy on plastic bags at three supermarket locations in Victoria does not address the real issue of litter management.

According to ARA executive director Richard Evans banning or taxing plastic bags does nothing for litter management, and only adds to the rising grocery costs already burdening consumers.

“This issue has never been about the free availability of plastic bags, nor is it about plastic bag usage. It’s about litter management. We should be encouraging consumers to take greater responsibility of how they reuse and dispose of plastic bags. It’s a litter issue and simply banning or taxing bags is a poor approach to public policy.

“Supermarkets contribute to 80 per cent of plastic bags so the government’s decision to limit the levy to larger supermarket chains is a good idea in theory, but not fair in reality. However, it still doesn’t address the issue of litter management for a product that is totally recyclable,” says Evans.

Evans adds the plastic bag debate was driven by inaccurate information being spread in the media about the environmental impacts of plastic bags.

 “According to reports in The Australian (10 March 2008, Scientists trash plastic bag ban), scientists and environmentalists have questioned the case against the use of plastic shopping bags as based on flawed science and misreporting.

“In addition, The Times newspaper in Britain (8 March 2008) has mentioned a report commissioned by the Australian Government that mistakenly blamed plastic bags for animal deaths after misquoting a Canadian study about discarded fishing nets. The same article quoted scientists, including an expert who advises environmental group Greenpeace, as saying plastic bags pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds.
“Retailers have been leading on this issue for over six years and this latest attack on plastic bags as a major environmental issue is overly emotive and needs to be looked at from an economic perspective. Governments need to engage retailers and educate consumers rather than listen solely to uninformed environmentalists,” he says.