New legislation was introduced to the Victorian state parliament this week which will ban all lightweight plastic shopping bags with a thickness of 35 microns or less. This includes bags made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic.
The new law will apply to all retailers and suppliers – regardless of size or type – from November 1.
National Retailers Association Manager of Policy David Stout says it is vital that all businesses are up to speed with their responsibilities.
“Retailers and suppliers who do not comply with the new laws will face penalties and risk disrupting their business and upsetting customers if they fail to prepare for the transition,” he said.
“All businesses currently using plastic shopping bags face important business decisions over the next few months.
“There is a wide range of alternatives out there now, and each choice could either increase or reduce business costs, not to mention impact on consumer perception of their business.”
Retail businesses in Victoria have until October 31 to use up their existing stocks of lightweight plastic shopping bags, Mr Stout said.
Free support for Victorian businesses
Mr Stout said that the NRA has partnered with the Victorian government to help retailers navigate the new laws, advise on alternative bags, and minimise negative impacts on businesses.
“We’re currently visiting over 100 shopping precincts across the state to inform retailers about how the ban affects them and what they can do to minimise any inconvenience to their business and customers,” he said.
The NRA has launched a dedicated website, www.vicbagban.com.au, that offers businesses all the information and resources they need to start preparing for the ban. It is also offering a dedicated Tollfree Bag Ban Hotline (1800 817 723) for retailers who need more information or advice.
“We encourage all Victorian businesses to access and use these free resources as soon as possible to help inform their decisions about alternatives, as well as helping them to educate their team and prepare their customers,” Mr Stout said.
Embracing more sustainable choices
Over the past 12 months, retailers have prevented billions of plastic bags from entering the environment, according to the NRA.
Mr Stout said that this achievement was only made possible by government, industry and consumers working together to ensure a smooth transition.
“We’ve seen a dramatic reduction in shopping bag consumption,” Mr Stout said.
“Retailers have taken the initiative to offer a wide range of reusable alternatives and consumers have responded extremely well.
“The decision to transition away from lightweight plastic shopping bags has been, without question, one of the most significant changes to the retail sector in a generation as shoppers had grown accustomed to receiving a free plastic bag.
“This was a daunting change for many businesses and we’re extremely proud of how well the entire retail sector has responded.
Coles diverts 1.7bn bags from landfill
Coles says it has diverted 1.7 billion lightweight single-use plastic bags from landfill since removing them from checkouts a year ago.
Data reveals Coles customers have changed their shopping habits significantly in the past 12 months. Seven in 10 now remembering to bring their own reusable bags every time they shop and a further two in 10 bringing them on more occasions than not.
Coles says customers choosing to purchase reusable Community Bags from the retailer have helped raise $2.5 million for charities.