For many locals it’s hard to remember a time when single-use plastic bags were freely available at supermarkets across Canberra.
The ACT banned single-use plastic bags on 1 November 2011 and, according to an independent, government commissioned study released this month, the ban has been a success.
ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, Professor Kate Auty, undertook the review of the ACT Plastic Shopping Bag Ban Act 2010, and found that in just 2017 alone the ban reduced plastic bag use by over 55 million bags.
Unfantastic Plastic – Review of the ACT Plastic Shopping Bag Ban also found the ACT was able to reduce plastic bag consumption by 60%, or 1,131 tonnes, between 2011 and 2018.
Surveying done as part of the review also found 68% of respondents supported the ban, with 64% supporting further reduction measures.
Bruce Edgerton, Principal Waste Management Consultant at multinational engineering firm AECOM, said in the review the ACT plastic bag ban had achieved a number of local benefits.
“The ban can play a role in educating consumers about the problems of a ‘disposable, ‘single-use society’ and help them engage in behaviour changes that could make a difference,” he said.
The report outlined several key recommendations that include: introducing a mandatory plastic bag disclosure regime requiring retailers who sell or distribute plastic bags to annually report; introducing a mandatory minimum plastic bag pricing based on mass of the bag; and further research into biodegradable and compostable plastics.
Mr Edgerton called for the introduction of a levy or a mandatory minimum charge for businesses providing plastic bags.
“This price signal is very effective in reducing plastic bag consumption.
“Arguably, an ACT-specific plastic bag levy would create a significant regulatory burden for local businesses and would be expensive for the Territory to administer … The ACT could introduce a mandatory minimum fee for the distribution of shopping bags,” he said.
ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury said he’s concerned by the review’s finding that local consumption is slowly returning to pre-ban levels.
“There is no simple solution for our plastic addiction … However, I am confident that the ACT can continue to lead the country in reforming how we use plastics.”