Shopping Bags

16 Sep 2003 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, representing the Minister for Environment and Conservation, a question about shopping bags.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: South Australia has long been a leader in many reforms, one example in the environmental field being our model container deposit legislation.

This government is in a frame of mind to portray itself as a leader in sustainability policies—a theme of its Thinkers in Residence program—and I note that it has been banging the drum loudly about a zero waste policy.

The Minister for Environment and Conservation has made a number of pronouncements over the past year or so regarding his desire to ban plastic bags—presumably in preference to supporting a levy. A number of retailers and environmental organisations have taken action voluntarily to promote alternatives and to assist consumers to recycle bags.

These include Bunnings, KESAB, Planet Ark, Ray White Real Estate, Clean Up Australia, Bi-Lo and Coles. I believe that they should be commended for their initiative.

Following the failure to reach agreement in July, we have seen the ministerial council back off from its previous resolve to halve plastic bag consumption by December 2004 to December 2005. We also now have responsibility for the reduction of bag use in the industries caught: if they do not comply then, in the minister’s own words of 26 May 2003, in a response to a question from a government member in the other place:

We will have to impose some sort of mandatory measure, and this parliament will need to be involved in that.

My questions to the minister are:

1. What specific mandatory measures was he referring to?

2. When will the parliament be presented with these measures?

3. Which agency, if any, is responsible for measuring the usage of plastic shopping bags in this state?

4. Is the data provided voluntarily by retailers, or will it perhaps be a role for the new army of Workplace Services inspectors?

5. How is he ensuring that the data is accurate and that South Australia is meeting its targets?

6. What action will the government take if plastic bag usage is not reduced according to its set targets?

7. Will the relaxation of the timetable for reduction in plastic bag use adversely affect South Australia’s zero waste plans for landfill reduction?

The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation): I will refer those questions to the Minister for Environment and Conservation in the other place and bring back a reply.

Monday 24 November 2003

In reply to Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16 September).

The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS: The Minister for Environment and Conservation has been advised that:

1. In 2002, the South Australian Government put the issue of plastic shopping bags on the National agenda as the preferred stance is for a nationally consistent approach to plastic carry bags.

Discussions to date at the national level have primarily considered either a levy on plastic shopping carry bags or a ban. A recent meeting of Australia’s Environment Ministers agreed that light weight single use carry bags containing HDPE will be phased out within 5 years.

2. The Environment Ministers agreed to support an industry code of practice subject to conditions including a requirement that industry must report nationally against targets specified in the code.

3. No agency is responsible for measuring plastic bag use. This data is gathered by retailers for national use. An independent auditor is being appointed by the Australian Retailers Association to audit data.

4. At this stage, requirements for data provision is clearly spelled out in the industry Code. Code signatories will be expected to provide the information. Given the two largest retail chains have already stated that they will sign the code, it is expected that data will be available from most purchases involving plastic carry bags.

5. There are no specific State targets, only national targets. Data is independently audited.

6. Action with respect to non attainment of targets will be coordinated at a national level. As already stated, the ultimate target is to phase out single use carry bags within five years.

7. Removing plastic bags from the waste stream will help to reduce South Australia’s reliance on landfill for waste.