Plastic bag ban backfires

Bin liner sales in SA have doubled since free plastic shopping bags were banned more than two years ago. And most bin bags are made of thicker plastic than traditional bags, which means they take longer to break down in the environment.

Woolworths says SA sales of plastic kitchen-tidy bags of a similar size, capacity and shape to single-use plastic shopping bags, are now double the national average. At Coles, sales of kitchen tidy bags increased 40 per cent in the year following the ban in May 2009.

Bin bag manufacturer Glad reported a 52.5 per cent jump in kitchen-tidy bag sales in the first year of the ban, compared with a 5.5 per cent increase nationally.

In SA, 48 million Glad bin bags were bought in 2008, rising to more than 73 million in 2009 and 84 million last year.

The figures have raised concerns about whether the plastic bag ban has been effective in reducing waste sent to landfill. In 2009, South Australia led the nation with a ban on lightweight, checkout-style plastic bags.

The Northern Territory and ACT are now introducing their own bans.

Zero Waste SA chief executive Vaughan Levitzke claimed in January 2009 the ban would not lead to a significant rise in the number of bin bags bought. "Research shows purchase of bin liners will not increase significantly, compared with the reduction of plastic shopping bags," he said.

Yesterday, the government agency said it did not have any current information about sales of bin bags.

Opposition environment spokeswoman Michelle Lensink said the situation was "fairly predictable". "We said at the time that it was tokenistic, just about having a headline, being able to say we're the first to ban the bag in Australia," she told The Advertiser.

Supermarket chains now charge 15c at the checkout for thicker "reusable" bags that Ms Lensink suggests are going straight to landfill.

Samantha Lang, 20, from Craigmore, yesterday said the bag ban had not changed her behaviour. "We do buy bin bags because we need plastic bags to line bins," she said. "But we always forget our green bags so we're always stuck paying the plastic bag surcharge at the supermarket."


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