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

3 September 2004

New offensive in plastic bags war

The Australian Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, said today he was confident Australians would be rid of lightweight plastic shopping bags within four years.

He said new measures agreed with retail industry leaders at a meeting in Melbourne this morning would speed up the current campaign to phase out plastic bag usage, now running at an annual rate of 6.9 million.

The new steps are:

Senator Campbell, who chaired the meeting of non-supermarket retailers, said he was confident the new measures would bring immediate results.

"The agreement to enable small retailers access to bulk buying arrangements for bags will be an enormous boost. As it stands, getting reusable bags at affordable prices is out of the question for small retailers," he said.

The first stage of the campaign has been very successful, with the major supermarkets slashing the use of bags by half a billion in the first half of this year.

"This second round of initiatives will ensure momentum continues to build and, importantly, spread into the non-supermarket sector, which accounts for around 55% of the 6.9 billion bags shoppers use each year."

Senator Campbell congratulated the Australian Retailers Association, major supermarket groups and Clean Up Australia for their work on the campaign.

"I appreciate the practical difficulties faced by many supermarkets to achieve the agreed goals — matters of efficiencies of time and space at check-outs for example," he said. "Everyone is working very hard to achieve the phased reduction goals.

"I am also delighted to have this new partnership with Planet Ark. The Australian Government is funding the organization for $25,000 to work with us in getting non-supermarket retailers to actively join the campaign.

"Jon Dee and his team have the standing and record to increase awareness and achieve results."

Senator Campbell also welcomed the announcement by chicken outlet Nando's that it will switch its takeaway bags from lightweight plastic to paper within three months. "It's a great move and I congratulate management for the leadership it is showing," he said.

Commonwealth of Australia