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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

15 December 2002

Minister Launches Plastic Bag Month Of Action


The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today called on retailers and small businesses to join forces with government and the community in a national effort to reduce plastic bag waste and clean up Australia’s environment.

Launching the Clean Up Australia’s Bag Yourself a Better Environment campaign, Dr Kemp urged small businesses to follow the lead of big retailers such as Coles, Woolworths, Safeway and Bi-Lo in making a commitment to minimise plastic bag usage and taking greater responsibility for bags over their life cycle.

"Australians are using more than 6.9 billion plastic shopping bags every year, with many of these bags only being used once to get the shopping home," Dr Kemp said at the campaign launch in Melbourne.

"Although 53 per cent of these bags originate from supermarkets, the remainder come from smaller retailers such as electrical and clothing stores, fast food and convenience stores and liquor outlets.

"Less than 3 per cent of these bags ever get recycled and many find their way onto city streets and waterways, killing and injuring thousands of birds and marine life.

"If all sectors of industry, government and the community do more to reduce, reuse and recycle, plastic bag litter will be substantially reduced and the environment will be much cleaner and safer for wildlife."

Dr Kemp said the Commonwealth, through the Natural Heritage Trust Waste Management Awareness Program, had doubled its funding commitment for Bag Yourself A Better Environment to $100,000 to enable the campaign to be extended to a national month of action from March 3 to 28 next year.

This followed the success of the last campaign, which resulted in a 155 per cent increase in the purchase of calico bags and a 215 per cent increase in plastic bag recycling rates at a major supermarket chain.

"Plastic bag waste is a problem and it must be fixed," Dr Kemp said.

"The Commonwealth has been leading the way on dealing with plastic bag waste and through Bag Yourself a Better Environment and the work being done with States and Territories, industry, retail and consumer groups will develop a national action plan on plastic bag waste.

"As we await recommendations from the National Packaging Covenant Council on ways to better deal with this problem, I encourage everyone to get behind Bag Yourself A Better Environment and think more about how to reduce, reuse and recycle, so we can all make a difference."

Media contact:
Catherine Job Dr Kemp’s office (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia