Berejiklian remains a plastic pollution pariah as supermarkets begin plastic bag ban early

In Parliament | 04.04.18

As supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles begin their voluntary ban on single-use plastic bags across a range of stores today, the NSW Labor Opposition has challenged Premier Berejiklian to respect the strong support in the community and ban the bag in NSW.

NSW is the only Australian jurisdiction refusing to ban single-use plastic bags, opening the state to ridicule as the nation’s plastic pollution pariah.

South Australia (2009), the ACT (2011), the Northern Territory (2011) and Tasmania (2013) all have bans in place. Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria have all committed to act this year.

In 2016, Labor introduced legislation in the NSW Parliament to ban single use plastic bags in NSW. The bill was defeated last year by the NSW Liberals and Nationals, 20 votes to 17.

The fact is, plastic bags are deadly to wildlife and their impact on the environment is clear-cut:

  • Every second, 159 single-use plastic bags are used in Australia – more than 10 million each day;
  • In NSW, up to 61 million bags are littered each year, and the average time a plastic bag is used between the shop and home is 12 minutes before it is discarded;
  • More than 70 per cent of the rubbish entering our oceans is identified as plastic; and
  • Plastic kills up to one million sea birds, countless fish and 100,000 sea mammals each year.

Where bans are in place there have been rapid reductions in plastic bag use with great consumer support. In South Australia, it is estimated that 400 million fewer plastic bags are used each year since the ban began, while there was a 36 per cent reduction in bags going to landfill in the ACT.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has previously been blasé about a ban, saying “I don’t need to [put a ban in place] because 80 per cent of plastic bags are already banned” through the commitment of the large supermarkets.

However, this attitude fails to address data showing at least 10 million bags will continue to pollute the state's environment each year, even after the voluntary ban comes into effect.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe MLC 

“The pig-headed attitude of the Berejiklian Government about plastic bag pollution has left the community asking one major question: why doesn’t the Government want to help bring an end to the deaths of thousands of animals each year? 

“Plastic bags kill thousands of turtles, dolphins, fish, and birds each year. A ban can help stop the carnage. 

“The community is ready for this, Corporate Australia is ready for this, yet the government is failing to act. 

“Gladys Berejiklian has so far failed to show leadership or a vision for NSW, but this is her chance to start. If she doesn’t announce a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, Labor will do so if elected in 2019.”