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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

24 October 2002

Plastic Bags Working Group Gets Down To Business

Government, industry and community leaders will gather in Melbourne today to discuss new options for reducing the impact of plastic bag waste on the environment announced Federal Environment Minister, Dr David Kemp.

The first meeting of the special plastic bags working group, convened by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) earlier this month, will investigate the broad range of issues surrounding plastic bag use in Australia and advise governments on short and long term solutions for dealing with the plastic bag problem.

It will also comment on a study being prepared by Environment Australia, which will examine the impacts of overseas levies on plastic bags.

Dr Kemp said the meeting will be attended by representatives from the Commonwealth, State Environment Protection Agencies, as well as the Australian Retailers Association, Coles Myer, Woolworths, the Plastics and Chemicals Industry Association, the Packaging Council of Australia and the National Packaging Covenant Council.

Community groups including Clean Up Australia, Planet Ark and the Council for the Encouragement of Philanthropy in Australia, will also attend.

"This meeting will provide a great opportunity for industry and community sectors to come together and exchange ideas on an appropriate way forward for dealing with the plastic bag problem," Dr Kemp said.

"The Group will work in conjunction with the National Packaging Covenant Council and report to the EPHC Ministers in mid-December, so a national plan of action can be implemented."

Australians use more than 6 billion plastic bags every year, with about one-third of these finding their way into the litter stream, either on city streets and parks or in waterways, where they are causing significant harm to marine life.

Less than one per cent of plastic bags are re-used, with only 10 per cent of Australian households taking their bags to a collection point, other than a dump, for recycling.

At the EPHC meeting in Sydney earlier this month, Commonwealth, State and Territory Environment Ministers also agreed to host a public summit on plastic bag waste.

Outcomes from the working group will be used to assist the National Packaging Covenant Council in its recommendations for a national plan of action to encourage more people to reduce, re-use and recycle.

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

Commonwealth of Australia