Queensland’s Parliament has officially passed the Waste Reduction and Recycling Amendment Bill 2017, which introduces a ban on lightweight singlet-style plastic bags. Coming into effect on 1 July 2018, the lightweight plastic bag ban will apply to all Queensland retailers, with penalties applying to any retailer who does not comply with the legislation.

According to Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles, the Bill passed through parliament with bipartisan support, reflecting the “overwhelming community support” for both the refund scheme and the bag ban. He has been particularly pleased to learn that some retailers have already stopped supplying lightweight plastic shopping bags in advance of the official commencement date.

A transition period will start a little before 1 July 2018 to help shoppers and retailers make the switch to reusable bags. During the transition, a retailer that normally provides a lightweight plastic shopping bag must supply an alternative shopping bag if the customer asks for one. Retailer may charge for an alternative bag, which can include a reusable heavy duty plastic bag, woven polypropylene “green bag,” paper or other type of bag.

The ban will not apply to the following bags:

• barrier bags without handles (typically used for fruit and vegetables)
• heavier-weight plastic bags (such as those used by department stores)
• bags that are integral to a product’s packaging (such as a bread bag)
• fabric and ‘green’ bags (often used at supermarkets)
• paper or cardboard bags (often used in food outlets, pharmacies and convenience stores)
• kitchen tidy or bin liner bags

This ban will affect all retailers – from grocery stores to fashion boutiques, from convenience stores to fast food outlets – that currently use lightweight plastic bags, including HDPE plastic, biodegradable, compostable, and degradable bags. The National Retail Association (NRA) is holding a series of state-wide workshops to fully brief retailers about the lightweight plastic shopping bag ban.

The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) supports the banning of lightweight plastic bags, with the exception of certified compostable bags which can perform the function of a shopping bag and subsequently help facilitate the collection and composting of food waste. Certified compostable materials can also be used to develop heavier-weight plastic bags, “green” bags, kitchen tidy or bin liner bags, barrier bags without handles and bags that are integral to a product’s packaging (such as a bread bag). Certified compostable materials and bags are readily available, deliver the same user functionality and are an environmentally friendly alternative.

Bans on lightweight plastic shopping bags are already in place in other parts of the country including South Australia, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.

For further information visit www.qld.gov.au/environment/pollution/management/waste/plastic-bags/about