Should Queensland ban plastic shopping bags?

There is a risk that plastic shopping bags will be banned nationwide in a token, feel good effort to look after the environment.  Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald (Ban on plastic bags spreads to Tasmania) reported:

MOMENTUM appears to be growing nationally for a ban on plastic checkout bags, as Tasmania joins three other jurisdictions to outlaw them.

A legislated ban is expected in Tasmania within a year following confirmation of all-party support yesterday. The state would join South Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory.

Luckily the Queensland Government has so far resisted pressures to ban plastic bags. Banning plastic bags would create inconvenience for shoppers, who would have to always make sure they’re carrying around enough reusable shopping bags to take home any groceries.  A ban would create a lot of inconvenience for miniscule environmental gains, given that plastic bags are a very small part of the total amount of litter in Australia.   This was made clear in a 2006 Productivity Commission report on Waste Management:

…based on evidence available to the Commission, the case for proceeding with the phase out of plastic bags appears particularly weak. A more cost-effective approach to addressing the underlying issues of concern would be to target plastic-bag litter directly.

The Commission made the great point that we should target the underlying behaviour that causes the environmental damage attributable to plastic bags – i.e. littering. Banning plastic bags would make us feel good when it’s announced, but we’d regret it every time we needed to pick up our stir fry ingredients on the way home from work, and we’d forgotten our bulky green reusable shopping bag.

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3 Responses to Should Queensland ban plastic shopping bags?

  1. Pingback: Push for national plastic bag ban | Queensland Economy Watch

  2. candice says:

    I’m a bit late in responding to this as my passion for it has only just been renewed in the last few days. I do believe it is necessary for us to ban plastic bags and begin to move away from using non-renewable materials that harm us and the environment around us. Our reliance on plastic will only last for so long considering plastic is made out of oil and oil will eventually run out. I believe we must ensure that remove as much reliance on crude-oil based products as much as possible.

    This talk of “inconvenience” to the shoppers is completely invalid. Oh gee, I forgot my reusable bag at home, what a pain! People will just have to get used to it, go without plastic bags and reconfigure the way the go about their day to ensure that they have resuable bags with them at all times. I myself have not used a plastic bag in years and whenever I forget my reusable bags when shopping I make a point to just get myself another one before making another purchase to remind myself not to forget them at home. People are flexible.. we’ve just removed that flexibility by making things too easy and “convenient” that we have forgotten to be pliant and to work with the environment around us for the better good of everyone.

    In addition, removing plastic bags from the economy has great fiscal benefits:
    – a reduction in plastics being thrown into the landfill
    – a reduction in the amount of land being used in landfill
    – a reduction in the staff needed to work in landfill
    – a decrease in littering
    – an increase in the production if bags that can be re-used, recycled or those that are bio-degradable, therefore an increase in jobs in the manufacturing and research and development industries

    Call me an idealist.. but I’d rather live in a clean environment where flora and fauna can flourish without being strangled by plastics so that my kids can have a better world to live in. Apologies for the “inconvenience” to your daily shopping life but the “inconvenience” really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.

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