Planet Ark’s plea for Australians to sign an online petition to ban plastic check out bags is just an overly simple solution to the complex issue of litter management. 
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) ARA executive director Richard Evans said the South Australian Government’s ban on plastic bags was creating disharmony across state borders when other governments should be working to find a uniformed national approach to plastic bag litter management.
"The issue is not about plastic bags, it is about the national consideration and litter management of all sorts of disposable packaging and goods – including the 60 million ‘green’ bags now in circulation that are made from non-biodegradable textiles,” said Evans.
"Planet Ark’s petition will show most Australians are anti-litter but a blanket-wide ban on plastic bags, which accounts for approximately 0.6 per cent of Australia’s litter stream, is ignoring the problem of consumer responsibility for disposing of their litter appropriately. Banning plastic bags is a band-aid fix that completely ignores a much wider problem.
Evans said that local governments need to be more innovative with recycling initiatives and more assertive when educating consumers about their roles and responsibilities in helping to reduce the environmental impact of their consumption.
Retailers have been voluntarily leading on the issue of plastic bag reduction since 2002, with the latest effort seeing a nationwide ban of plastic bags across all Target stores from June 09. Retailers are doing their part to reduce plastic bag usage but it’s now up to local governments to address the real issue of litter management.
“Any national or state wide ban on plastic bags is heavy-handed legislation and a knee-jerk reaction that does nothing to resolve the complex issue of litter management – and we all know there is much more than plastic bags in landfill and litter streams,” said 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. So, we need to place this debate into context and start to consider a non-emotive, national approach to litter management that shows deeper thinking than the simple solutions proposed by Planet Ark.”