Pack your bags, Victorian shoppers, because the state plans to play catch up with most of the rest of Australia and phase out thin plastic bags next year.
Single-use, light-weight plastic bags, commonly used at the supermarket checkout, will be banned within 18 months under state government plans announced on Wednesday
Bags used for fruit, vegetables and meat, thicker garbage bags and dog-walking waste bags would be exempt and customers would still be able to buy heavier plastic bags.
“We are absolutely committed to doing more to reduce plastic pollution in our environment,” Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.
“The community wants us to do more in this space. Doing nothing is not an option.”
She denied the government had dragged its feet as the second-last Australian state and territory to ban the bags of less than 35 microns in thickness, saying it wanted proper community consultation and the best policy.
The move comes after a federal parliamentary committee report on Tuesday recommended phasing out single-use plastics, including bags, by 2023 in a bid to tackle a crisis in recycling.
In Victoria a reference group will be set up involving government, industry, retailers and environmental groups to nut out the path towards a bag-free future.
An education campaign for retailers and the community will also be developed, Ms D’Ambrosio said.
The ban would also apply to plastics bags at takeaway and convenience stores and independent retailers who do not decide to ditch the bags before 2019.
Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham hailed the plan as an important first step” and urged all sides of politics to support good environmental policy.
“We would like to see legislation in parliament as soon as possible,” he said on Wednesday.
Mr Wakeham said supermarkets needed to reconsider selling products in plastic and wanted laws to ensure plastic can be recycled.
Woolworths has already taken the bags from its stores with Coles to also shelve them from Sunday.
Victorian Greens deputy leader Nina Springle said both major parties slapped down its bill in October to ban plastic bags, packaging and microbeads, and action could have been taken sooner.