NSW to Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags
Words by Emma Goldrick
The NSW Berejiklian Government is preparing a policy that could lead to a complete state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. The review being led by Environment Minister Matthew Kean comes almost a year after leading supermarket operators Coles and Woolworths took the initiative to cease free single-use plastic bags in stores. Mr Kean stated early this week that the private sector has lead the way on reducing plastic and he believes with the support of the federal government NSW could go further in its attempts to eliminate single-use plastic.
The New South Wales Government is in the process of developing its first ‘comprehensive’ plastic policy initiative that looks at the reduction of single-use plastic within the state. The plan is likely to detail the reduction of plastic and targets that aim to tackle the growing plastic epidemic. With the introduction of an initiative to phase out single-use plastic the Liberal Government will be overturning its long-held stance on opposing a ban on plastic bags. NSW remains the only state in Australia to not have already banned single-use plastic bags, with Victoria introducing the ban of the bag in November.
While the recently announced ban-bag still requires cabinet approval, it is understood that the previous opposition to the banning of single-use plastic amongst the party has diminished. Reports claim that hesitance to banning plastic bags in NSW amongst liberal members has lessened due to the restructuring of senior advisors within the party.
In 2016 The NSW Environment Protection Authority began preparations to phase-out thin plastic bags, which was later prevented by Mike Baird’s stance on the matter. Other attempts by Liberal Members to bring about the ban of the bag sooner were made by former Liberal MP for Coogee Bruce Notley-Smith who later lost his marginal seat to Labor. Furthermore, the previous environment ministers, Gabrielle Upton, Mark Speakman, and Rob Stokes all supported the phasing out of single-use plastic, however never implemented a complete ban. Environment Minister Mr Kean brings hope to an otherwise bleak track record when he stated on Tuesday;
“We want to see plastics stop polluting our environment. We know that single-use plastic bags are a major contributor to pollution and litter in our state, and that's why we want to look at all ways that we can clean up our environment."
While the Liberal Party, until now, has yet to take action on the overuse of plastic in NSW both the Greens and Labor have consistently campaigned for the banning of the bag and stronger restrictions regarding single-use plastic.
Most of the criticism behind banning the bag comes from the disturbance of convenience to individuals lives. Banning plastic bags breaks the chain of convenience that has been awarded to individuals historically, and instead invites people to take the initiative to bring an alternative bag. Consumer mentality is the main hesitance behind a complete ban of the bag as customers have become used to the comfort and accessibility of plastic options.
However with the ban of the bag, individuals will be forced to make environmentally conscious decisions throughout their shopping experiences. Experts believe that banning the use of plastic bags will contribute to people becoming more environmentally aware in other aspects of their lives, gradually changing the embedded consumer mentality. Banning the bag has the capacity to make individuals more self-aware of their behavioural patterns and promote environmental consideration.
With the supermarket industry taking initial strides in reducing the use of plastic shopping bags, it is apparent that a complete ban on single-use plastic is possible. By no means have supermarkets done enough to mitigate their environmental impact, with urgent calls for leading chains to reanalyse the way in which they package certain goods. However, through the banning of free single-use plastic bags at the checkout, Coles claims to have avoided 1.7 billion lightweight plastic bags ending up in landfill just in the past year!
Whilst this motion must still pass through the cabinet and go through a process of planning and implementation, this is the first active step taken by the ruling party in NSW to completely eradicate single-use plastic bags within the state. The ban of the bag is a promising attempt by the government to reflect the eco-friendly values that are becoming more and more present within our community.