By Craig Zammit

SYDNEY: The Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) has urged the Australian government to re-consider imposing a charge on supermarket plastic bags after a survey commissioned by the ANRA found that 93 per cent of  consumers reuse or recycle bags.

Interestingly, the statistics from the survey of 1,200 Australians aged 18 and over showed that plastic bags from department stores or clothing outlets had a reuse/recycle rate of only 73 per cent, with 13 per cent of those polled stating that they threw those bags away.

Accordingly, ANRA CEO, Margy Osmond, believes that supermarket plastic bags are not the issue.

“Shoppers have clearly embraced the efforts of major retailers, governments and environmental groups to think about the way they use their bags.

“Yet governments are looking at regulation and only looking at regulating major supermarkets. They should be focusing their efforts on educating and encouraging consumers to treat plastic bags from other types of retailers, in the same responsible way they now treat supermarket bags.

“Imposing a tax on consumers for bags they already use responsibly can’t be justified – and quite frankly it is an outrageous and short sighted response to the need for more effective education and support for consumers and the wider business community,” Osmond said.

Of the 93 per cent who reuse or recycle supermarket bags, 56 per cent line their home bins with them, 22 per cent put them in their home recycling and 10 per cent put them in recycling bins provided at many large outlets, with only 3 per cent of all respondents stating that they throw their supermarket plastic bags away.

“We were also encouraged to find that two-thirds of customers said they use re-usable bags – clearly the ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle’ message, implemented voluntarily by major retailers, has had an impact,” she said.

Plastic bags currently account for 0.8 per cent of total rubbish in Australia, with the sustained voluntary initiatives dropping that total figure by some three billion bags. Expected to be a logistical nightmare, a plastic bag tax will also likely increase demand for alternative bag uses, with the levy recently introduced in Ireland resulting in soaring sales of bin liners and other plastics.