The Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) recently urged Australian governments to re-think discussions aimed at imposing a charge on supermarket plastic bags. ANRA CEO Margy Osmond calls the proposed levies “an unjustified tax on consumers”.

A survey commissioned by ANRA found that by and large, supermarket shoppers are doing the right thing when it comes to plastic bags, with an overwhelming 93 per cent reusing and recycling the bags they receive from supermarkets. Just three per cent throw out their supermarket plastic bags.

Of the 93 per cent that are reusing and recycling their supermarket bags, 56 per cent reuse them in their home bins, 22 per cent put them in their home recycling and 10 per cent put them in recycling bins provided at many large outlets.

When customers were asked about how they treat other types of plastic bags, there were significant differences:
• takeaway outlets – 36 per cent reuse or recycle, 41 per cent throw them away
• fresh food stores – 75 per cent reuse or recycle, 13 per cent throw them away
• convenience/corner stores – 69 per cent reuse or recycle, 11 per cent throw them away
• department/clothing/variety stores – 73 per cent reuse or recycle, 13 per cent throw them away

“These results confirm that supermarket bags are not the issue. Shoppers have clearly embraced the efforts of major retailers, governments and environmental groups to think about the way they use their bags,” says Osmond.

“We were also encouraged to find that two-thirds of customers said they use reusable bags – clearly the ‘reduce-reuse-recycle’ message, implemented voluntarily by major retailers, has had an impact.

“Yet governments are looking at regulation and only looking at regulating major supermarkets. They should be focusing their efforts on educating and encouraging consumers to treat plastic bags from other types of retailers, in the same responsible way they now treat supermarket bags.

“Imposing a tax on consumers for bags they already use responsibly can’t be justified – and quite frankly it is an outrageous and short sighted response to the need for more effective education and support for consumers and the wider business community,” says Osmond.