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

23 May 2006

Minister applauds 3 billion plastic bags cut

The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, today praised supermarket shoppers and operators for cutting three billion plastic bags from circulation during the past two years.

He said a report compiled by the Australian National Retailers Association, representing major supermarkets, showed that by the end of last year supermarkets had reduced their annual use of lightweight, single-use bags by 45 per cent compared with 2002.

“This is an enormous achievement by shoppers and supermarket management and a clear demonstration of a behavioural change by thousands of Australians,” Senator Campbell said.

“The cutback means fewer bags in the litter stream. The goal must be to stop plastic bags getting into the litter stream and spoiling Australia’s environment.

“The initiatives introduced by supermarkets to cut back on the number of bags issued, the eagerness of shoppers to be part of the campaign and the take-up of re-usable bags have all contributed to this win for the environment.

“It is important to bear in mind that this outstanding result came from entirely voluntary action – no regulations, no levies or additional costs to shoppers.

“There will be some predictable complaints that the 50 per cent reduction goal was missed and therefore the campaign failed. While 50 per cent would have been better, 45 per cent is still an outstanding result and it would be nonsense to portray it otherwise.

“I am delighted that the major supermarkets are committed to achieving the 50 per cent goal by the end of this year.

“I also share their view that development of a viable degradable bag to replace existing lightweight plastic ones is a key to achieving further significant reductions.

“It is important that standards for such bags are set as a matter of urgency so that manufacturers know exactly what they are aiming at. The Australian Government will contribute to work that accelerates the development of viable replacement bags,” he said.

Media contact:
Marianne McCabe 02 6277 7640

Commonwealth of Australia