The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has warned consumers and retailers about significant health and safety issues related to the ban of plastic bags in South Australia from Monday.
ARA executive director Richard Evans said South Australia's ban of single-use plastic bags would introduce a plethora of hygiene concerns, as well as safety issues for staff at checkouts and registers across the state.
"Rather than working with other governments to tackle the issue of litter management on a national scale, the South Australian Government has favoured populist politics and heavy-handed legislation that has already caused health and safety concern and does nothing to solve this complex environmental issue," Evans said.
"From Monday, South Australian consumers will be forced to bring their own bags to carry grocery items from supermarkets and other retail outlets, increasing the risk of infection from cross-contamination.
“Bags that may have been used to carry raw chicken one day, may very well be the same bag carrying fresh fruit the next day. This is potentially major health concern and the SA Government must take on the responsibility of educating consumers about how to avoid possible risks of infection.
With South Australians no longer having access to the convenience of plastic bags, there have already been reports of frustration and abuse at the checkouts and registers, highlighting OH&S concerns for retail staff who are often young and inexperienced in handling consumer rage.
"The reality is that legislation banning or placing a levy on plastic bags is a knee-jerk reaction to a complex problem, with little environmental benefit and many potential health, safety and compliance issues. In the end, consumers will pay for any increase in compliance costs as a result of the ban on plastic bags.
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.
“A state-wide ban on plastic bags is irresponsible, ideological and populist politics at its worst,” Evans said.