The Andrews Labor Government has committed to ban single-use, lightweight plastic shopping bags. This discussion paper seeks input from all Victorians on how we can design this ban to ensure it is fair and effective. It also broadens the conversation to what else we can do to manage other plastic pollution in Victoria.
Plastic pollution is an urgent environmental problem. Globally, thousands of tonnes of plastic enter our waterways and oceans each year. It has been estimated that ocean surface waters alone could contain over 5 trillion plastic pieces, weighing over 250,000 tonnes.
Plastics in the environment break up into smaller and smaller pieces over time. This means that the impacts of plastic pollution are long term, and can become increasingly difficult to manage.
While Victoria has relatively low litter rates, litter from lightweight plastic bags poses a particular problem. Plastic bags are highly mobile and can easily be blown into open spaces and waterways. In the environment, they can pose a danger to marine animals. A study by the University of Queensland found 30 percent of turtles autopsied were found to have plastics, including plastic bags, in their intestinal tract.
Currently, every Australian state and territory except Victoria and New South Wales have banned or committed to banning single-use lightweight plastic bags. This is also the case in countries such as China, France, Kenya and Bangladesh. Given the significant environmental impacts of plastic bags, it is important Victoria takes action.
What we’ve heard so far
The recent Parliamentary Inquiry into the Environment Protection Amendment (Banning Plastic Bags, Packaging and Microbeads) Bill 2016 attracted nearly 3000 public submissions, the majority of which were supportive of a plastic bag ban. Submissions provided extensive evidence detailing the widespread impacts of plastic pollution on our environment Thousands of Victorians have also written to us calling for action to reduce plastic bag use. That includes hundreds of students from schools across the state who have expressed concern about the impacts of plastic pollution and argued for a ban on plastic bags. The Andrews Labor Government welcomes these views.
Your opportunity to participate
We are gathering information to help reduce the environmental impacts of plastic bags and other plastic items – and we want your help. That includes your views on how we can ban lightweight plastic bags fairly and effectively, and on which approaches we should consider to reduce the impacts of other plastic pollution in Victoria. The government understands there are complex issues to work through in order to deliver real and lasting change. We are committed to engaging with all Victorians on these issues, and this discussion paper is an opportunity for Victorians to help reduce the harm caused by plastics in the environment.