Recent changes to the laws and policies banning single use plastic bags. Are they working?
Single use plastic bags are considered of great used by common people in everyday life. However, the scientific fact is that the plastic bags harm our environment. They are dangerous for wildlife. The plastic bags also require highly valuable resources to get manufactured. When it came out as a result of the researches, the Government of the countries started making laws against the use of single use plastic bags.
Ban of single use plastic bags in Australia
The Australian government introduced a new policy to ban the plastic bags on November 2011. The ban on single use plastic bags is supported by legislation. The Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Act 2010 is dedicated towards it. The South Australia, Northern territory and Tasmania banned single use plastic bags with an immediate effect. The ban applied on bags made up of polyethylene polymer plastic that is lightweight. It is also less than even 35 microns as far as thickness is concerned. One micron is equal to 1000th of a millimeter. The bags that are not allowed are often made of compostable material or starch.
States/Territories following the Provisions of the Ban
South Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales are the cities/States/Territories where the provisions of the ban are followed.
Review of the Ban
It was in 2012 and 2014, Ban was reviewed internally by (Australian Capital Territory) ACT. The ban was again reviewed in 2018. The purpose of reviewing was to check it on the grounds of sustainability and environment. The Australian National University undertook an important technical analysis and supported this review.
Cost of reusable bags that are allowed
The retail price of reusable plastic bags is 10 cents and the wholesale prices four cents. The retail price of biodegradable plastic bags is five cents and the wholesale prices two cents. Reusable plastic bags and biodegradable plastic bags can also be given for free to the customers by the retailers on buying something. The retail price of reusable boutique bags is 15 cents and the wholesale price is 6 to 12 cents. The retail price of reusable green bags is $1 and the wholesale prices 70-80 cents.
The bags that are allowed
The band did not apply to the use of the bags that was used for carrying meat, fish, fruits and vegetables that are different from the other items of grocery such as barrier bags. The plastic bags that are heavier and reusable are that are used by department and clothing stores are also allowed. The bags that are made of woven cotton, paper bags, bin liners, biodegradable compostable bags are certified to Australian standard AS 4736-2006. These are reusable bags and fall in the category of 'green bags'. Plastic bags are allowed in some dog friendly reserves and parks to scoop the waste of the animals. Nappy bags have also been kept unaffected by the ban for the sake of nappy disposal. The boutique bags are heavier in style, reusable and are branded. These boutique bags are used by clothing outlets, departmental stores and footwear retailers.
The Act in 2009
In 2009, one more act came into effect to ban plastic shopping bags. It was the South Australian governments plastic shopping bags (waste avoidance) Act 2008. Its review took place in 2012. It found the high effectiveness of the ban on single use plastic bags of 35 microns thickness. There was a huge reduction in the supply of the plastic bags from the region of South Australia. The change in the behavior of the consumers was noticed in the review.
The act in 2011
In 2011, one more act came into existence in support of The Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Act 2010. It was the northern territory Environment protection (beverage containers and plastic bags) act. This was too to control the supply of non-biodegradable, lightweight and single use plastic bags. As per the results came out in the audit, there is variability in the supply of the plastic bags. It is a little difficult to figure out whether the Ban is Highly Effective in the Northern Territory or not.
Tasmanian plastic shopping bags Ban Act 2013
Tasmanian plastic shopping bags Ban Act 2013 also contributed to the success of the ban on the plastic bags. Like the northern territory, it was difficult to find out the status of effectiveness of the act in Tasmania.
Impact on litter stream
The audits are conducted by the keep Australia beautiful network comprehensively in me and November every year. It is performed in all the Australian states and territories comprehensively. Its release takes place in August every year. According to keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index, there is consistent decrease in the consumption of plastic bags, as released in 2013. It could not differentiate between the different types of single use plastic shopping bags that were found in the litter stream. Therefore, it is not possible to find out whether the plastic bags found are complaint or non compliant with the single use plastic shopping bags ban.
Action against retailers
If the retailers provide a single use plastic shopping bag to any e customer to carry the products bought from the seller, this action shall fall under the category of committing an offence. According to the magistrates Court (plastic shopping bags Ban infringement notices) regulation 2011 (the regulation) has the provision of imposing penalties to be paid by the corporations and individuals for committing improvements that are against the act.
Current scenario of penalty
Currently, if a retailer commits a single use plastic shopping bag to for the sake of carrying the goods, he is supposed to pay $110 and if an individual commits the offence on behalf of a corporation, the corporation is supposed to pay $385.
ACT government office of regulatory services (ORS) executed inspections to check whether the complaint of the ban is taking place or not. The inspections were started by the office before the ban was imposed. 1,734 inspections were carried out between July 2011 and October 2011. The purpose was to make the retailers responsible towards society and environment. After the ban was introduced, 714 inspections were undertaken by the ORS.
Complaints from consumers
The people in Australia became so responsible towards the ban of plastic bags that they made complaints against the retailers who were not complying with the rules by the ban; resulting in the inspections conducted by the ORS.
Community views on the plastic bags ban
There are different viewpoints of the people living in the community. Around 68% of the people said that they do support the ban against the plastic bags because they understand that plastic bags are dangerous for everyone. Out of these 68%, there were 48% who 'strongly supported' the man and the word 20% of the people in the community who only 'supported' it. 27% of the people in the community said that they were against it. Out of these 27%, 14% 'opposed' it and 13% 'strongly opposed' the ban on the plastic bags because it was very convenient for them to use the plastic bags. Only 5% were not sure about their opinion on the ban
Effectiveness: Reduction in consumption
The ban reduced the use of plastic bags because the shoppers were encouraged to bring their bags from their homes. The volume of the waste taking place was reduced to a higher level. It was lessened by one-third of the previous use.
Effectiveness: Positive impact on society
The Act has shown a positive impact on consumer behavior and the attitude of people in the society. The acceptance of the ban is still in progress. It has been observed that the shoppers have developed the habit of taking the reusable bags with regularity. Overall, as per the survey among the consumers, the band has a positive impact on the society. It was slow in the beginning but steady with time.
Effectiveness: Acceptance by retailers
It was followed by all the retailers in the cities where it was banned. It is supposed to be followed by every retailer strictly. It involves the owners of the small shops, large retailers, non supermarket and supermarket chains, outlets, the sellers at the markets of farmers, etc. Show the ban proved to be effective and followed by the retailers as well as the consumers. Most of the retailers have been providing the bags that are allowed by the government according to The Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Act 2010. The level of compliance by the retailers has shown a significant success in reducing the supply of single use and lightweight plastic bags.
Effectiveness: Development of manufacturers of green bags
This is the biggest sign of acceptance of the ban on single use plastic bags. After a couple of months, Mini entrepreneurs realized the potential of manufacturing green bags in a lot of variety and sizes. This has been a major driver in acceptance of the ban. The availability and supply of the green bags to the retailers promptly played a great role.
Current scenario of boutique plastic bag litter
a) The beauty plastic bag litter counts have been comparatively stable number since 2009 to 2017.
b) Remarkable 60% reduction in lightweight plastic bag litter has been registered since 2011, i.e. the launch of the ban in the act.
c) Australian Capital Territory has become the state with the lowest number of plastic bags counted per 1000 m square between 2013 and 2017.
d) 57% of the population said that they have reduced their consumption of plastic bags as a result of the ban.
e) Around 68% of people have developed the habit of taking a reusable bag along with them while going shopping. It is so because around 69% of the people believe that the band has got a highly positive effect on the environment.
It has been proven that The Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Act 2011 with its recent changes has been proven effective significantly. It can be apparently seen by the data available, inspections made and the surveys conducted. The idea of the ban on single use plastic bags must be carried out by more countries since this is dangerous for the environment.
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