How Australian Retailers Led the Way on a Successful Bag Ban

Australia's National Retail Association threw its early support behind efforts by both retailers and state governments to replace single-use plastic bags with multi-use alternatives. Despite controversy, the decision led to an 80 percent decline in their use in just a few months.

A plastic-bag campaign launched by an Australian retail association is showing some major results after just a few months in action.

Earlier this year, Australia’s National Retail Association (NRA) threw its support behind efforts to cut the use of single-use plastic shopping bags, which were banned in the state of Queensland on July 1. The association joined with the Queensland government and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council to launch a digital resource to help ease the transition.

Meanwhile, two major retailers in the country, Coles and Woolworths, soon followed suit, cutting their use of the bags at stores around the country, a move The Guardian noted represented “the de facto removal of the bags from most consumers’ hands.”

Despite initial public outcry against the moves, the association called the efforts “a crucial step toward changing overall consumer behavior” in comments to Waste Management Review.

“Banning lightweight plastic shopping bags is another important step in creating a future-proof industry,” the association’s CEO, Dominique Lamb, told the outlet back in June.

The campaign’s early controversy, which admittedly led to some hiccups on the part of the retailers, appears to be showing some pretty solid effects, however, as NRA reports that plastic bag consumption is down by an impressive 80 percent since the Queensland ban went into effect—a decline of 1.5 billion single-use bags, according to calculations by the association.

NRA Manager of Industry Policy David Stout admitted that the efforts initially drew public anger, but despite that, the ban is leading to a drop in use as much as 90 percent in some quarters.

“Retailers deserve an enormous amount of kudos for leading the way on one of the most significant changes to consumer behavior in generations and we also applaud shoppers for embracing this environmental initiative,” Stout said in a news release earlier this month.

Stout added that the sale of alternative bag options is helping to support charitable efforts, with nonprofit groups such as Landcare, Clean Up Australia, Little Athletics Australia, SecondBite and Guide Dog receiving donations as a result of the bags’ sale. He also noted that, while large retailers are leading the way, their efforts are helping smaller businesses by “providing a template on how [to] manage the transition to a plastic bag-free retail environment.”

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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