Ban a good first step

October 26, 2017

The Goulburn Valley Environment Group has welcomed the Victorian Government’s move to ban single-use plastic bags from next year as a positive first step now in the bag.

Single-use plastic bags commonly found at supermarket checkouts will be banned in Victoria from 2018, with retailers cautiously backing the move.

The ban will come into place after a three-month consultation process with consumers and industry, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said last week.

‘‘In the first half of next year we will have a design scheme for the ban and a commencement date,’’ she said.

But while checkout bags will be banned, lighter-weight bags used for fruit and vegetable packaging will still be available.

Heavier plastic bags favoured by many clothing retailers won’t be included either.

GVEG president John Pettigrew said people only needed to wait until the next flash flood to see first hand the nuisance plastic bags caused to the region’s rivers.

The group has discussed the simmering issue and had looked at ways a ban might be implemented locally, suggesting efforts to influence small independent grocers in the area before hoping to follow suit with bigger players.

‘‘It’s something we desperately need,’’ Mr Pettigrew said.

While impacts on the ocean aren’t seen locally, the GVEG president said one doesn’t need to live far from the Goulburn River to see detrimental effects.

‘‘I’m not a scientist, but I would have thought there’s similar issues... within the rivers.

‘‘You see the result each time we get a flash flood ... islands of plastics,’’ he said.

‘‘Not all these are one-use plastic bags, but we’re certainly doing a better job than we were doing in the past.’’

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy labelled the announcement ‘‘panicked’’ and ‘‘bizarre’’.

‘‘The idea is certainly worthy, but it’s been announced without any detail,’’ he said.

Mr Pettigrew said GVEG would seek to better understand what was being proposed and ‘‘whether that will achieve what we think is necessary and not’’.

‘‘This is attacking one area of plastics, there’s certainly other plastics out there,’’ he said.

‘‘I would have thought this is a very good first step.’’

The announcement follows a move by supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles to phase out free single-use plastic bags from July 2018.

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