Plastic bag use rises

After falling for the last few years and despite vigourous promotion of reusable bags by groups such as Planet Ark, plastic bag use in Australia soared last year, up from 3.36 billion bags in 2006 to 4.84 billion in 2007. In Ireland a government levy cut the use of plastic bags by 90 per cent. Environment Minister Peter Garrett says the Federal government has ruled out such a levy here, but the government is committed to phasing out plastic bags by the end of this year. How this will happen is not yet clear.


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Tim Wallace said,

    Yes, the plastic bag issue is worrying for two reasons. First, the massive increase in bag use shows how faddish green issues can be; when, for whatever reason, they make into in the public consciousness people change their behaviour but it doesn’t necessarily last. Human habit being what it is, we all too easily fall back into doing what’s convenient. And I don’t see so many people touting those green bags as a fashion statement these days. Second, Peter Garrett’s stated reason for not supporting a levy doesn’t bode well for action on more serious issues like a point-of-purchase levy on electronic goods to cover the cost of recycling. His logic seems a little flawed: the whole point of a levy is to use a price lever to deter frivolous bag use, not to raise money, so saying it will hurt the poor doesn’t make all that much sense. I wonder if he would argue that there shouldn’t be a tax on cigarettes or parking fines because they hurt the poor more too. Supermarkets could go back to letting people use all the cardboard boxes that shelf stackers now just crunch into the bin. But then they wouldn’t make a profit on selling those “green bags” at inflated prices, would they?

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