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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

11 October 2002

Plastic Bags Top Ministers' Waste Action Agenda

At the meeting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) in Sydney, Environment and Heritage Minister, Dr David Kemp, and State and Territory colleagues agreed to ask the National Packaging Covenant Council to develop a comprehensive package of measures to combat plastic bag waste.

Ministers confirmed that the National Packaging Covenant was the appropriate mechanism for dealing with the issue and noted that although some progress has been made, stronger action is needed.

“Australians are using more than six billion non-degradable plastic bags every year, with many of these ending up littering our cities or polluting our waterways and harming our marine wildlife,” Dr Kemp said.

“Through the Packaging Covenant and support for public awareness campaigns, we have already taken a range of measures to tackle the problem. However, there is a lot more we can and must do, and retailers, consumers and governments all have a role to play.”

The EPHC will ask the Covenant Council to consider a range of options for the way forward, including the proposal by the Chair of the Council for the Encouragement of Philanthropy, Ron Clarke, for a voluntary levy on plastic bags.

“Retailers will play a big part in framing the way forward. I am encouraged at their willingness to explore the options. They are in an ideal position to raise customer awareness on plastic bag issues and to encourage more environmentally responsible behaviour in the use and disposal of bags,”
Dr Kemp said.

“Retailers such as Woolworths and Coles last year supported a public awareness campaign to reduce and recycle plastic bags and we hope that retailers across Australia will support similar campaigns in the future.

“By displaying information about plastic bag waste in their stores, by asking customers if they would prefer to use alternatives such as cloth bags or even placing recycling bins in stores, retailers can make a tremendous difference to plastic bag waste.”

The Council also agreed to create a working party of officials and relevant industry and community representatives to identify options for eliminating environmental impacts of non-degradable plastic shopping bags.

EPHC asked Victoria, which has been active in waste management issues, to host a public summit to discuss measures to reduce incidence of plastic shopping bags in the environment.

For information on the National Packaging Covenant, see attached or access website at

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

The National Packaging Covenant

Actions attributable to the Covenant thus far

Commonwealth of Australia