From July 1, 2018, single-use, lightweight plastic bags will be banned statewide in Western Australia.
Like other States who’ve had a ban in place for almost a decade (South Australia adopted a ban in May 2009), WA is encouraging retailers to plan ahead for the change by considering alternatives such as paper and reusable bags but is giving until 1 January 2019 to deplete existing stocks.
Who'll be affected?
The ban will affect all retailers who offer plastic bags for items, including:
- Convenience stores
- Takeaway food stores
- Liquor stores
- Other retailers such as dollar stores, hardware stores and appliance stores
Coles and Woolworths also plan to cease supplying plastic bags Australia-wide from 1 July 2018 in line with WA. NSW is the only state to not commit to a ban, citing Coles and Woolworths moving to reusable bags as the reason why.
The ban will not impact retailers and users of heavier reusable bags, department store-type plastic bags, dog waste bags, nappy bags or produce bags of the type used for fruit and vegetables.
What about compostable/biodegradable bags?
According to a discussion paper: Implementing a lightweight single-use plastic bag ban in Western Australia released in December 2017 by the WA Government’s Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, there are many wondering whether biodegradable, degradable and compostable bags should be included, pointing out these terms can be misleading.
"Bags marketed as biodegradable and compostable do not readily break down in the environment or in domestic composting units – they require a commercial composting facility in order to fully decompose," it states.
"Many lightweight plastic bags are also marketed as degradable or oxo-degradable bags, but these are not biodegradable."
In fact, many of these so-called degradable bags actually break down into microplastics (identified as being of 5mm or less) which pose a new danger to already polluted oceans.
These types of microplastics came under the spotlight recently with the ban of microbeads (typically found in exfoliating and beauty products) after scientists discovered their impact on the environment, due to their ability to pass easily through wastewater systems.
Environmental impact of plastic bags
Plastic bags are not only harmful to the environment, they are made from non-renewable natural resources such as crude oil, gas and coal.
A 2002 Nolan ITU Report for Environment Australia on Plastic Shopping Bags - Analysis of Levies and Environmental Impacts; found that just 8.7 plastic checkout bags contain enough embodied petroleum energy to drive a car 1 kilometre - if they are recycled. If they fail to make it into the recycling process we lose valuable the from the resource chain.
Plastic bags make up a small percentage of waste concerns but they have disproportionate effect on the environment, particularly marine wildlife as they can last from 20-1000 years and have the ability to travel great distances by air and sea.
If not disposed of properly, plastic bags can pollute waterways, clog sewers and gather in oceans, affecting the habitat of marine animals and contributing to plastic waste gyres such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This patch of floating garbage and debris is estimated to be between 700,000 and 15,000,000 square kilometres wide and was formed by the Pacific’s circular ocean currents.
As more and more plastic debris washes up on the shores of WA, affecting birds, fish and other sea life, the call to ban plastic bags once and for all has now reached a tipping point with the average Western Australian aware of the environmental impact of single-use bags.
A survey of Western Australian households conducted in November 2017 found that:
- 95 percent of respondents were concerned about the impacts of plastics on waterways, oceans, wildlife and landfill sites;
- 77 percent used alternatives to lightweight single-use plastic bags at least some of the time;
- 84 percent supported a ban on lightweight single-use plastic bags; and
- 85 percent supported extending that ban to include biodegradable and compostable lightweight bags.
WA plastic bag usage facts
- West Australians used about 360 million plastic bags in 2017 – about 140 per person;
- The bags have an average useful life of 12 minutes;
- Plastics do not biodegrade – they break down into microplastics;
- Most of the litter is not associated with supermarket-to-home use, but takeaway food uses;
- There can be up to 40,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of ocean not to mention the plastic that has floated to the bottom;
- Seabirds, turtles, sharks, and fish love to eat plastic bags because they look like jellyfish.
How can retailers prepare for the ban?
According to the Government of WA’s discussion paper on plastic bags, any retailers who continually provide single-use bags to customers should consider the following steps:
- Stop ordering bags that will be banned from 1 July 2018 and run-down stocks in the lead-up to the ban.
- Decide whether the business will sell or supply alternative bags.
- Discuss alternatives with suppliers. (Taldara Industries is happy to discuss your options for customers including paper, Envirochoice reusable bags and LDPE die cut bags. Contact us today).
- Decide whether the business will offer alternatives, such as the reuse of cardboard boxes.
- Discuss implementation of the ban with staff, for example how to assist customers who may not know about or support the ban.
- Consider placing signage around the business to inform customers in the lead-up to the ban.
Not sure which option will suit your business?
Taldara has been providing hospitality and retail outlets with disposable packaging for over 30 years.
Our staff have decades of product knowledge and buying power, enabling us to pass on savings to the customer. We also offer free scheduled weekly delivery Perth-wide and personalised sales representatives to manage your orders.
Why not give us a call on 08 9409 6166 or enquire online about how we can help your business transition from plastic bags this July. We’re happy to discuss any questions or point you in the right direction.
Can’t find a paper or plastic product?
Just ask us! We have access to thousands of products on demand.