The Plastic Bag Ban

Plastic bags can take 50 generations, or 1000 years to break down in landfill

While Seattle is working towards the use of fewer paper cups, Australia’s Northern and Capital territories will soon be using far less plastic bags.

From 1 November 2011 no retailer in the ACT will be able to supply the single-use, light weight polyethylene bags that have been the standard in supermarkets for many years. They will, however, be able to charge customers for heavier, reusable bags.

The ACT Legislative Assembly passed legislation to “ban the bag” in December of 2010, and the two step process began on 1 July 2011. From that date retailers who supply the single-use plastic bags were required to provide an alternative option (which they could charge for) and to display signs informing customers or the coming ban.

The ACT Plastic Bag BanThe only light-weight plastic bags which are exempt from the ban are the fully compostable, biodegradable bags that meet Australian Standard AS 4736-2006. Unlike other supposedly degradable bags, these are not made from polyethylene.

The Northern Territory got in earlier, with their transition period beginning on 1 May 2011 and full ban beginning on 1 September.

Meanwhile a ban on plastic bags has been ongoing in South Australia since 2009, and has been highly successful, with most residents now bringing reuseable bags shopping with them.