... So that You may be kept informed

SA: Plastic bags to disappear from close of business Sunday

03 May 2009 5:16 PM

ADELAIDE, May 3 AAP - Checkout-style plastic bags will disappear from South Australian shops from the close of business on Sunday, with the state the first in the nation to ban them.

All retailers - from large supermarkets to small takeaway food shops - are subject to the ban.

They will offer compostable as well as reusable bags at a cost to consumers instead.

"By banning checkout-style plastic bags we'll be cutting waste to landfill, we'll reduce the amount of litter on our streets, in our parks and our waterways," SA Environment and Conservation Minister Jay Weatherill said in a statement.

"Producing four billion of these bags across the country each year is an enormous waste of energy and resources and the ban will slash South Australia's share of that waste."

The ban is expected to remove about 400 million plastic bags from SA's waste each year.

When stores open on Monday shoppers will either have to carry the reusable so-called "green bags", or pay up to 25cents at major retailers for biodegradable bags.

Plastic bags on a roll, commonly used for fruit and veg and meat, will remain available, along with sturdier department store or clothing shop bags.

"South Australians know we've only got one planet and that we can't keep acting like we have two or three," Mr Weatherill said.

Major retailers Coles and Woolworths both said they had taken steps in recent months to prepare shoppers for the ban.

"The plastic bag ban will mean a big change to the way some customers shop," Woolworths director of corporate and public affairs Andrew Hall said in a statement.

"To help reduce confusion, Woolworths has been running an education campaign in-store so that customers could start to get used to shopping with reusable bags."

This has included plastic-bag-free lanes.

Environmental group Planet Ark is urging other governments to follow South Australia's example.

The group is launching an online petition to send to a May 22 meeting of all federal and state environment ministers calling on them to "Kill Off Plastic Bags, Not Wildlife".

It is estimated that 100,000 marine creatures die each year from plastic pollution.

"As pioneers of the plastic bag reduction movement, Planet Ark applauds the South Australian government's legislation to crack down on this insidious nuisance," Planet Ark general manager Anne-Marie Byrne said in a statement.

Founder of Planet Ark and founder and chair of the Do Something national plastic bag campaign Jon Dee will visit SA tomorrow to monitor the first day of the ban.

Mr Dee, along with former Olympian Ron Clarke, launched the original campaign to ban plastic shopping bags in 2002.

The Do Something alliance is campaigning for SA's ban to become national.

SA retailers who breach the ban will face on-the-spot fines of $315 or a maximum penalty of $5000. Suppliers who fail to comply can face fines of up to $20,000.