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Single-use plastic bag ban to commence shortly in Victoria

A state-wide ban on lightweight, single-use plastic bags will take effect in Victoria on November 1.

Announced by the Victorian government in June 2018, the ban aims to help reduce the impacts of plastic on the environment by promoting the shift from single use plastics bags to durable, reusable bags.

The ban will apply to all businesses that sell goods, including; supermarkets, greengrocers, bakeries, pharmacies, clothes stores, restaurants, cafes, markets, food outlets, and many more.

Those who do not comply with the ban could be penalised by the Victorian EPA.

Some companies, such as Bakers Delight, have been given a grace period by the EPA. The company purchased 1.6 million plastic bags in 2018, which at 35 microns would be banned under the new legislation. The EPA is allowing Bakers Delight to use the bags until March 2020.

Under the ban, single-use bags made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic will also be restricted.

Bags that will not be banned include barrier bags for fruit, vegetables, meat and fish; garbage bags and bin liners; and animal waste bags.

Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has engaged the National Retail Association (NRA) to help retailers’ transition away from lightweight plastic bags.

Single-use plastic bag bans have been in place in Western Australia and Queensland since 2018; in Tasmania since 2013; in the Northern Territory and ACT since 2011; and in South Australia since 2009.

New South Wales currently has no ban on single-use plastic bags, despite two billion plastic bags being used in the state each year, according to the Australian Government Department of the Environment. Of this number, only 14 per cent are recycled.

The NSW EPA released a Plastic Shopping Bags Options Paper in 2016 to discuss banning certain bags; and since then, the NSW government has been working on a plastics policy that could lead to a state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. The review is currently being led by Environment Minister Matt Kean.