Western Australia looking to ban or levy plastic bags

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dead fish inside plastic bag
Dead fish are seen inside a plastic bag after collection by municipal workers at Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in Rio de Janeiro, March 13, 2013. Reuters/Sergio Moraes

Western Australia is looking to ban plastic bags or make customers pay a levy for carrying them. Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said he was concerned over the effects of wastes that single-use bags create.

The minister told 6PR's Mornings program his department alerted him that about 80 million plastic bags end up in the waste stream annually. He said over the past years, he has been lobbied by some Australians who want the government to consider implementing a ban on the use of plastic bags.

"So I've started looking into the issue,” he added. He said Western Australia would follow other states that have already banned the usage of plastic bags.

Dawson pointed that there are several states that banned plastic bags. He cited Queensland which is set to begin a ban next year. Meanwhile, other states in the country such as Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are already implementing the plastic bags ban. 

It is unclear if WA would implement a ban or a levy on a plastic bag. Rivals Woolworths and Coles customers pay for cooler and fabric bags while plastic bags are for free. “Personally I don't like the idea of a levy, however countries like Ireland have used levies successfully and that has brought big change,” Dawson said, adding that he is open for all options, Sydney Morning Herald notes.

“Ban the bag”

Last year, a supermarket in WA was forced to scrap a plastic bag purchase scheme after it faced customer backlash. Denmark Supa IGA store manager Bob Cybula, in his attempt to stop the use of plastic bags, introduced a 10-cent charge for bags as a first step. However, the scheme did not last for a whole day.

"The reason why I stopped it was my staff got abused on the first day of launch," Cybula told ABC. He shared he got emails saying he was greedy and propping the bottom line up, but clarified that it was not his intention. They said Denmark Supa only wanted to help minimise the use of plastic bags.

Dawson‘s statement about the use of plastic bags came after Waleed Aly challenged the WA premier and two other Australian premiers last month to ban the product. In his “Something We Should Talk About” editorial, the latter noted that nearly 700 kilos of waste go straight to landfill every year.


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