Page 3943 - Week 10 - Thursday, 20 September 2018

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plastic bag regulation: 46 per cent said they are not willing to pay anything and 62 per cent of respondents supported a reform to require all plastic bags to be biodegradable and compostable.

The review looked at six options for policy reform and assessed its implications on householders, retailers and the government. These options included: keeping the ban as it is and doing nothing; increasing the minimum allowance thickness of plastic shopping bags; requiring all plastic bags to be biodegradable and compostable; banning all plastic shopping bags; using price to reduce consumption of plastic shopping bags; and introducing a mandatory disclosure regime for the sale and distribution of plastic bags by retailers.

It was assumed for this review that the primary objective of the plastic bag ban is to reduce plastic bag consumption and/or the associated detrimental environmental impacts. These findings reflect an endemic confusion about the merits of the various types of biodegradable bags under normal disposal conditions. If not disposed in commercial composting facilities or conditions, the fate and impacts of these bags is not dissimilar to other plastic bags.

Given their single-use nature and the public’s misguided view of their benefits, without intervention these bags may actually exacerbate the plastic problem. Other jurisdictions have recognised this dilemma and are taking action: Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria are proposing to ban biodegradable and compostable bags similarly to banning other plastic bags.

Against this context the commissioner has made four recommendations: first, introduce a mandatory plastic bag disclosure regime; second, introduce minimum plastic bag pricing; third, improve government’s governance on plastic bag regulation; and, finally, research synergies for compostable plastic and the proposed household organic collection scheme. These recommendations will be considered further by government, and a response will be provided within six months.

In conclusion, the ACT government’s ban and the community’s action on plastic to date has been successful in reducing plastic bag consumption. Without our interventions we would have used an extra 55 million plastic bags in 2017-18 alone, the equivalent of the weight of 200 elephants. The ACT community is supportive of our current ban on plastic bags and wants us to do more. However, plastic bag regulation is no straightforward matter, and the commissioner’s four recommendations will help us navigate our next points of action.

I commend the paper, Unfantastic Plastic—Review of the ACT Plastic Shopping Bag Ban to the Assembly and look forward to further action on this important issue.


Ms Stephen-Smith presented the following paper:

Freedom of Information Act, pursuant to section 39—Copy of notice provided to the Ombudsman—Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate—Freedom of Information request—Decision not made in time, dated 7 September 2018.

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