Banning single-use plastic shopping bags

Plastic bag in the ocean

The Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Dr Gillian Sparkes, welcomes the Victorian Government’s commitment to ban single-use, lightweight plastic shopping bags. Reducing the number of plastic bags we use is an important part of addressing the overall impacts of plastic pollution in Victoria.

Engage Victoria launched a discussion paper, Reducing the Impacts of Plastics on the Victorian Environment, that underlines research into plastic pollution and offers a broad analysis of the costs and benefits associated with the ban. There is also an opportunity for contributions from the public.

The report states that Victoria does have relatively low levels of litter as compared to other states, but according to research undertaken by Sustainability Victoria, the state’s overall plastic recycling rate of 67% is relatively low. As a state, we recycled only 28% of the 570,000 tonnes of plastic waste that was produced in 2014.

The report did highlight experience across other states which shows that banning lightweight plastics can lead to undesirable results, including increased use of heavier duty plastics, which can have an even greater environmental impact.

However, there are economic advantages to a ban on lightweight plastics, because the cost to society and the environment of consumers purchasing reusable bags and reusing them is less than retailers purchasing light and heavy weight plastic bags that are not reused.

Plastics in the environment break up into smaller and smaller pieces over time, becoming increasingly difficult to manage. They can end up in our waterways, lakes and oceans — contributing to litter and posing a significant hazard to our marine life.

Litter and plastic pollution, particularly that which enters our waterways, was documented in the 2016 State of the Bays.

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