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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

28 July 2004

Australians slash plastic bags by half a billion

Australian supermarket shoppers slashed their use of plastic bags by 29 per cent to the end of June 2004, according to a report released today by Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell.

This amounts to a reduction of over half a billion bags and if we maintain this effort we could slash plastics bags by over one billion by the end of the year.

The Australian Retailers Association report is the first six monthly progress report on the new Code of Practice for the Management of Plastic Carry Bags, which aims to cut by 25 per cent the total number of bags used by the end of 2004, and by 50 per cent by the end of 2005.

"Hundreds of thousands of supermarket shoppers are saying 'no' to plastic bags, and we are now fast-tracked to exceed our yearly target," Senator Campbell said.

"The retailers' Code of Practice is an important part of a national plan of action developed by the Howard Government in collaboration with state and territory governments, industry and the community.

"We have come a long way since the Australian Government forged a partnership four years ago with Clean Up Australia, retailers and community members, to tackle the scourge of plastic bags.

"I congratulate supermarkets, shoppers and the many communities that have worked together to protect the environment from the bags, which can harm not only such marine life as Green Turtles, Humpback Whales and albatrosses but also land-based animals if they enter the litter stream.

"In 2002, Australians used about 6.9 billion plastic carry bags. Most of these went to landfill, but over 50 million ended up as litter, blown into paddocks, drains, rivers and oceans.

"Australian shoppers have responded enthusiastically to the call for action, and the take up of alternatives has been remarkable. From Perth to Sydney, it's now common to see supermarket shoppers using alternative bags.

"I expect that we will see more choices available as manufacturers, retailers and consumers warm further to the challenge.

"In 2002, supermarkets used about 53 per cent of plastic carry bags. Today's report shows that supermarkets are now responsible just for approximately 45 per cent.

"The next challenge is for other non-supermarket retailers to follow the lead of the supermarkets and encourage shoppers to use alternatives to take home their newspapers and magazines, homewares or fast food.

"These results show that a national, voluntary approach to this issue is the best solution - that communities rather than government bans or levies will get the job done.

"This approach gives retailers and consumers ample time to find and embrace suitable alternatives. It gives shoppers more choice, it stimulates innovation and does not place unnecessary costs and burdens on either retailers or shoppers," said Senator Campbell.

Commonwealth of Australia