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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

 

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Joint Media Release
Dr David Kemp
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
&
Dr Mal Washer, MP
Federal Member for Moore

7 April 2004

WA boosts national effort to cut plastic bags


West Australian supermarkets are making a significant contribution to the national effort to reduce plastic bags with a major supermarket retailer and wholesaler signing up to the Retailers Code of Practice, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, announced today.

“Foodland Australia Limited (FAL) has joined the growing number of supermarkets across Australia who have signed up to the Retailers Code of Practice for the management of plastic carry bags,” said Dr Kemp.

Federal Member for Moore, Dr Mal Washer, said FAL supplies about 40 per cent of the packaged groceries consumed in WA through its own Action Supermarket chain and by wholesaling to the franchised groups of Dewsons, Supa Valu and Foodland.

“The Retailer's Code of Practice is a voluntary program with retailers committing to reduce the use of plastic bags by 25 per cent by the end of 2004 and by 50 per cent by the end of 2005. It also commits to increasing recycling rates to 15 per cent by the end of 2005. Over 90 per cent of supermarkets have now signed the Code,” Dr Kemp said.

FAL is already taking significant action to reduce plastic bag use. Although it hasn't officially signed up with the Retailers Code of Practice, it commenced its own plastic bag reduction program in June 2003. In the first quarter for 2004 FAL reported a nine per cent decrease in the use of plastic bags. That's equivalent to 4.2 million bags per annum.”

Dr Washer said: “Each Action checkout staff member is trained to minimise plastic bag usage including asking customers whether they want a bag, using smaller bags for smaller orders and fully packing larger bags.

“With the exception of a few regional stores, recycling facilities are provided at all Action supermarkets, and FAL has calculated that this results in approximately 1800 cubic metres of plastic bags being diverted from landfill annually.

“In addition, Action offers its customers small, reusable calico bags which sell for 99 cents. Sales of the calico bags are gathering momentum s ince they were first made available in May 2003, and weekly sales have now increased to 2200 bags. All plastic bags issued by Action Supermarkets are also manufactured from recycled material.”

Dr Kemp said: “This is great progress. It shows that the voluntary approach to reducing our plastic bag habit is effective in achieving long-term behavioural change.

“I'm delighted that FAL is also a major participant in Clean Up Australia's national consumer campaign ‘Say no to plastic bags' , which is supported by the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust.”

Nationally, preliminary figures show supermarkets have made a good start in meeting the 25 per cent reduction target for 2004 by slashing more than 200 million plastic bags in the past year. This is equal to 12 per cent of this year's target.

“This all adds up to a really good start for the voluntary agreement that so many people said would never work. But it's just the beginning. Australians were using approximately 6.9 billion new plastic shopping bags every year, almost half of them from stores other than supermarkets,” Dr Kemp said.

“What we want everyone to do is to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle plastic bags. If you don't need a plastic bag - say no.”

For more information on plastics in the environment, visit www.deh.gov.au/plasticdebris

Commonwealth of Australia