Tasmania says goodbye to shopping bags

bye bye bagsThe Tasmanian Government announced last year that it would ban lightweight plastic shopping bags on November 1 this year.

The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment set up an advisory site which explained …

Plastics are a major pollutant in our environment and waste valuable resources. You can make a difference and help reduce the number of plastic bags by bringing your own bag!

From 1 November 2013 Tasmanian retailers can no longer supply shoppers with non-biodegradable, lightweight plastic shopping bags. The ban is being implemented by the Tasmanian Government and applies to all Tasmanian retailers. Please be patient with retail workers while everyone adapts to the change.

In the event, the change appeared almost effortless, as the Hobart Mercury reported next day:

Tasmania’s shoppers adjust quickly to ban on plastic bags as new regulations kick in 

Shoppers and retailers got through the first day of the state’s plastic-bag ban relatively unscathed, major supermarkets report.

IGA said early feedback from Tasmanian stores was that day one had gone smoothly. “It is very early days but I expect the next few weeks to be interesting as customers get used to the new arrangements,” IGA’s Grant Hinchcliffe said yesterday. Cloth and bio-degradable plastic bags will be on offer at IGA stores, at a small cost.

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths also reported no major hiccups. Woolworths said the first day under the new regulations had gone smoothly. “The adverts, media coverage and our own communications has meant our customers are well aware and have prepared for the changes,” a Woolworths spokesman said. “Anecdotally, we’ve noticed many customers coming into stores today with their own bags.”

The ban does not apply to biodegradable plastic bags and heavier “boutique-style” bags, which can be re-used. Re-useable green bags, ziplock bags and thin-film barrier bags used to wrap prepared foods and fruit and vegetables are also still allowed.

Next question: why can’t we do it here?

… and “here” means Queensland (since that’s where I am) or whichever state you’re reading this blog from.

  • The South Australian ban came into force in May 2009.
  • The Northern Territory ban came into force in September 2011.
  • The Queensland government briefly considered one in July 1013 – then back-flipped on the specious grounds that it would increase the cost of living. The story about it in the Courier-Mail is worth reading in full so I won’t post it here. All I will say is that the decision is absolutely typical of the Newman government. Sigh … but never give up!

“Here” also means Townsville (since that’s where I am) or whichever town you’re reading this blog from. A statewide ban would obviously be better but a local one may be easier to bring into existence. I first saw one in action in Tasmania, as it happens, in a pretty little seaside town called Coles Bay. They banned bags back in 2003 and when I visited in 2006 it was perfectly normal for the locals, while tourists like ourselves approved of the change and adapted to it very quickly.

More information

A slightly shorter version of this article appeared in Waves, newsletter of the Reef HQ Volunteers’ Association, for December 2013.

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