Environment Minister Greg Hunt foreshadows ban on plastic bags
Plastic bags could soon be history as federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt signals he's ready to use the "bully pulpit" of national government
to enforce an Australia-wide ban.
Single-use plastic bags can still be used in Sydney, despite being banned in Canberra, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
"It's a little bit hard under federal law to do that, but you can use the bully pulpit of the national role to make sure we get rid of these non-
biodegradable bags," Mr Hunt said.
"Sadly, they're more prevalent than you may think."
Clean Up Australia research identified more than 3 billion plastic bags are used in Australia each year, and about 50 million end up as litter.
The lightweight plastic bags are made from oil, do not degrade for decades and their light weight means they can travel deep into natural
ecosystems such as oceans or the bush.
Ian Kiernan, from environmental movement Clean Up Australia, said they had been campaigning for plastic bags to be banned "forever".
"Plastic bags are a dangerous blight on this country," Mr Kiernan said. "Because they're so durable, they accumulate and kill wildlife and plants."
In December, a rare Risso dolphin died on Manly Beach after eating a plastic shopping bag.
Its death spurred the NSW Greens to develop legislation to ban plastic bags, which they intend to introduce into parliament shortly after the state
election. It would phase out plastic bags by the end of 2015.
In the 2007 election campaign, Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett pledged to ban the bags. But the push faltered in the face of an estimated cost of
$578 million and fierce opposition from the state governments.
Community action group Plastic Bag Free NSW's Tim Silverwood said the conditions were right for a national ban because four states and
territories had implemented their own bans and the Baird government's action on plastic waste such as microbeads.
"There will be some opposition by grocery stores and the plastics lobby, but it's time for Australia to join the 21st century," Mr Silverwood said.
"Australia has a long-standing culture of loving and respecting their land and the ocean, so this should be a no-brainer for us."
The Australian Food and Grocery Council was contacted for comment.