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

22 March 2005

Campaign steps up to stop plastic bag use


Raising awareness among all retailers is the key to cutting plastic bag use, according to a report released today by the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, and Planet Ark Managing Director Jon Dee.

Convening a plastic bags roundtable of industry and environment groups held at Parliament House, Senator Campbell said the Planet Ark report revealed great disparities in how non-supermarket retailers were responding to the challenge to cut plastic bags use by 50 per cent by the end of 2005.

"I am pleased to see that some stores surveyed by Planet Ark for the Australian Government are achieving even better results than the supermarkets, which we know are on track to meet their targets," Senator Campbell said.

"Bunnings, for example, has cut plastic bags use by 73 per cent - that's 21 million plastic bags.

"However, of the 129 non-supermarket retailers surveyed in this study 47 per cent had not heard of the ARA's target of a 50 per cent reduction, or its Code of Practice on plastic bag use.

"Cost is also an issue with 51 per cent saying they use plastic bags because they are cheap. Meanwhile 46 per cent said it was habit and 43 per cent also stated convenience as a reason."

Today's roundtable, which coincides with World Water Day, also marks the launch of Clean Up Australia's 2005 "Say NO to Plastic Bags" campaign. The Chairman and founder of Clean Up Australia, Ian Kiernan AO, also attended the roundtable.

"Congratulations must again go to Clean Up Australia for running this campaign, which the Australian Government has supported as a partner since it began," Senator Campbell said.

"World Water Day is a timely reminder that every year thousands of marine animals are killed by plastic bag debris. The solution is simple - we need to step up our efforts to encourage shoppers to say no to plastic bags, and simultaneously encourage retailers to provide alternatives.

"Despite the action taken by supermarkets, single use plastic bags in the litter stream are increasing. Clean Up Australia's detailed plastic bag litter surveys conducted in the Greater Sydney region in 2003 and 2004 suggest that plastic bag numbers are still going up."

Mr Kiernan said: "Ridding plastic bags from our environment as quickly as possible must become the focus for all retailers."

Further information on the Planet Ark report is available at www.deh.gov.au/industry/waste/plastic-bags/planet-ark.html
See www.cleanup.com.au for details of the Clean Up Australia campaign.

Media Contact:
Senator Campbell's office: Renae Stoikos (02) 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434

Commonwealth of Australia