MORE than just single-use plastic bags are targeted to be banned in Victoria by the end of the year.
The Victorian government has committed to banning lightweight plastic bags by 2019 and residents will get a taste of that new scenario in a month’s time when Australia’s two biggest supermarket retailers start charging for them.
But activist groups are pleading with the state government to also ban heavier shopping bags and all plastic bags marked degradable, biodegradable and compostable which studies of bag bans in other states have shown households are more likely to buy as bin liners.
Boomerang Alliance recently visited Bendigo on a central Victorian campaign to create a container deposit scheme that pays refunds people for their plastic.
Victorian campaigner Annett Finger said the least confusing scenario was banning all plastic bags.
The Boomerang Alliance points to two other reasons in favour of imposing a blanket ban, which Queensland will enact on July 1.
In its submission, the alliance said biodegradable, degradable and compostable bags were “just as harmful as standard bags in the aquatic environment”.
“Degradable bags are designed to break into smaller pieces and resemble food for wildlife even more than standard bags,” the submission stated.
“Biodegradable bags contain toxic agents to slow down their composition when in contact with liquid… they decompose slowly, if at all, in the marine environment.
“They tend to be littered more as consumers think that they are okay to discard.”
Dr Finger said a blanket ban would create a clean slate around which certification and education could clarify the use of future products.
In the meantime, recycled cloth bags such as those made by Plastic Wise Bendigo are recommended as the most cost effective and environmentally friendly shopping bag.
The discussion paper the Victorian government is using to underpin the design of its bag ban says retailers are asking for a consistent approach to plastic bags across Australia, but as a late mover on the ban, Victoria is already dealing with differing models with Queensland about to enact the most the stringent.
Feedback to the discussion paper itself is behind schedule.
Dr Finger said the volume of submissions had delayed the release of feedback.
“This is testament to Victorians jumping on board and being ready to do this and they want the ban to be properly done,” she said.
The supermarket chains with the most floorspace in Bendigo, Woolworths and Coles, will be a test for consumers starting from late June.
Both will begin charging for their single-use plastic bags from then.
“We’ve been really encouraged by the positive feedback we’ve received from customers in the stores that went single-use plastic bag free in April,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.