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Media Release
Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp

2 March 2003

Time To Clean Up Your Plastic Bag Act


The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today urged all Australians to maintain the momentum from Clean Up Australia Day and start taking more responsibility for plastic bags in the environment.

Joining Clean Up Australia Day celebrations in Melbourne, Dr Kemp said the national plastic bag month of action - Bag Yourself A Better Environment - kicks off tomorrow and everyone is asked to do more to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle their plastic bags.

"Every year in Australia we use almost 7 billion plastic bags and many of these find their way on to our streets, parks and waterways where they take years to break down and cause significant harm to marine and wildlife," Dr Kemp said.

"This month of action presents us all with a great opportunity to reduce our dependence on plastic bags and take greater care of bags throughout their life cycle, so they don't end up polluting our environment."

Dr Kemp said Bag Yourself A Better Environment - jointly funded by the Commonwealth and major supermarket retailers including Coles and Woolworths - has already received fantastic community support, with local councils, retail and industry sectors right around Australia signing up to participate.

"More than 1800 stores are participating nationally, 170 councils and a number of shopping centres, which are all contributing in a variety of ways to help change the plastic bag culture," Dr Kemp said.

"In addition to direct retailer sponsorship, major sponsors, Coles and Woolworths, are trying some innovative techniques to reduce plastic bag usage, including bag-free lanes at selected Coles supermarkets, 'Pack Your Own' initiatives at Woolworths, calico bag promotions, and in-store recycling facilities.

"We'll also have roving plastic bag ambassadors across Australia giving people tips about how to reduce, reuse and recycle.

"From Meadow Mews in Tasmania, to Mundaring Western Australia and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, a Bag Yourself A Better Environment initiative is underway, so now is the perfect time to get out there and start changing your plastic bag habits."

Dr Kemp said Bag Yourself A Better Environment is a major initiative in the Federal Government's strategy to reduce plastic bag usage, with retailers also being asked to meet stringent targets for reducing and recycling plastic bags. Governments have asked industry and the community to cut plastic bag litter by 75 per cent by the end of 2004.

"Australians have become big users of plastic bags, but they are also big supporters of a clean, healthy environment," Dr Kemp said.

"During this national month of action and beyond, if everyone makes a concerted effort to swap a plastic bag for a calico or string bag, to recycle the bags they do use, and prevent bags from entering the litter stream, we will make a tremendous difference to the state of our environment."

Bag Yourself A Better Environment runs from March 3-28. For more information visit the website www.cleanup.com.au.

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

Commonwealth of Australia