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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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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

25 February 2004

Supermarkets Slash Plastic Bags


Supermarkets are on track to achieving a 25 per cent reduction in plastic bag use by the end of this year, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, revealed today.

"I'm delighted to say that supermarkets have responded magnificently to Governments' challenge to slash the number of plastic bags they issue," Dr Kemp said.

"The major supermarkets have cut plastic bag use by more than 200 million in the past year and consumers right around the country are also doing their bit and are using fewer plastic bags and more reusable ones.

"Ninety per cent of supermarkets have signed up to the voluntary agreement, the Retailers' Code of Practice, since October last year.

"Coles has used 130 million fewer plastic bags in the last year and sold 1.6 million reusable bags. Woolworths' campaign is just kicking off but has already cut 88 million bags and sold one million reusable bags. While we don't yet have figures from all the chains, Franklins, IGA, Foodworks and the small independents are all putting in place their own programs to cut plastic bags.

"Preliminary figures suggest the supermarkets have already achieved a 12 per cent reduction - a great effort in a few months.

"The supermarkets are running their own in-store campaigns to alert customers to the new reusable bags, and to train cashiers to use as few plastic bags as possible. Coles, for example, is running a 'Give plastic bags the flick' promotion and Woolworths 'Fill the bag, not the environment'.

"The Australian Government is making further inroads to reduce our plastic bag use by funding CleanUp Australia's 'Bag Yourself a Better Environment' campaign, as are most of the big supermarkets and independents. Cleanup Australia's 'Say No to Plastic Bags' advertising campaign will kick off later in March to generate community support for what the retailers are doing.

"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.

"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.

"I'm glad to say that liquor stores are signing up to the code and offering alternative green bags, and general chains like Target and Officeworks are developing new reusable bags for larger and heavier items. We're also working through the industry associations to get newsagents, clothing stores, booksellers and pharmacies on board.

"The big challenge is the fast food stores. While only 5 per cent of plastic bags come from fast food stores, they are a major source of litter. I call on them to join the voluntary groundswell and to do their bit to cut plastic bags."

Commonwealth of Australia