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Archived media releases and speeches


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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

23 September 2001


The plastic shopping bag is the target of a new national effort against waste and litter launched by Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today. Announcing the 'Bag Yourself a Better Environment' campaign in Adelaide, Senator Hill urged Australian retailers and shoppers to work together to reduce and recycle plastic bags.

The campaign will culminate in a week of action from October 29, when shops throughout Australia - including 440 Coles and 650 Woolworths supermarkets - will urge customers to think about how they take their shopping home, and to bring back their used plastic bags for recycling.

"Australians are estimated to use more than six billion plastic bags per year - enough if tied together to stretch around the world 37 times," Senator Hill said.

"The hundreds of thousands that are thrown away pollute our land and waterways, killing or injuring thousands of birds and animals. They're lethal for marine life, particularly turtles that die of blocked intestines after mistaking them for jellyfish.

"Meanwhile, millions of plastic bags go to land fill each year, sometimes taking hundreds of years to break down. Only about one per cent of the bags we use is recycled. With support from the Natural Heritage Trust, the Government is joining Clean-Up Australia, retailers and community representatives in this call to find alternatives to plastic shopping bags, and to ensure that those you do use don't enter the waste stream and are returned for recycling."

Senator Hill congratulated Coles and Woolworths supermarkets and the Australian Retailers Association on their involvement in the campaign. He also thanked a member of the Blue Mountains community, Shirley Lewis, who shared her experience of her campaign against plastic bags with the project team.

"This sort of partnership between industry, government and the community holds the key to lasting behaviour change," he said. "Coles, Woolworths and many of the other retailers that have expressed interest in this initiative are members of the National Packaging Covenant - an alliance with Federal, State and Territory Governments and more than 300 companies and industry associations to cut packaging waste.

"Industry is also responding more and more to consumer and investor demand for environmental accountability - by reporting publicly on their environmental performance, by participating in voluntary initiatives like those run by Clean Up Australia, or by committing to eco-efficiency agreements with the Commonwealth.

"In campaigns like this, the community also has an important role to play by looking at the small changes we can make in our every day lives, and by increasing demand for a greener lifestyle."

September 23, 2001

Media Contact
Belinda Huppatz 0419 258 364

Plastic bags are bad news for turtles.

Photo: Ron Prendergast, Melbourne Zoo
Plastic bags are particularly lethal for turtles, which mistake them for jellyfish and die of blocked intestines.

Commonwealth of Australia