Mal backs bag ban

Rugby league great Mal Meninga has joined forces with the National Retail Association (NRA) to launch a campaign in Queensland calling on consumers to get behind the state government’s July 1 ban on single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags.

“The number of plastic shopping bags used by Queenslanders is nearing a billion each year – most of which are used for only a short period of time and go to landfill,” he said.

“But around 16 million of these bags are littered and end up in our precious environment. The equivalent in weight to 96 small cars’ worth of plastic bags wind up in our environment where they wreak havoc on the local ecosystem, our waterways and our marine life. We simply cannot afford to stand by and let this scourge on our environment continue.”

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb says retailers have long supported the idea of industry-wide action to try to combat toxic plastic-bag pollution, but those that have launched their own bans have often found it tough getting customers to embrace the idea.

“Our industry is behind the state government for making this non-negotiable for all stores right down to the smallest takeaway outlets, local markets and online stores, as it’s a crucial step towards changing overall consumer behaviour,” she said.

From July 1, no retailer in Queensland will be allowed to hand out single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags under 35 microns thick, or they risk fines of more than $6,000 per offence.

“Consumers will need to prepare by either bringing their own reusable bags, or should expect to pay a small fee of around 15 to 20 cents for a basic reusable option, through to as much as $5 for locally-made jute or hessian bags,” Ms Lamb said.

She adds that she has also asked shoppers to be patient with retailers through the transition period, while they adjust to new bags and processes.

“It’s up to all of us to do our bit,” she said. “It’s a small change in our routine for a big impact on Queensland’s environment.”