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09:22, January 11, 2008

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Aussie grocery stores to drop plastic bags

Australia has followed China in announcing it plans to end plastic bag use in supermarkets, with its new environment minister saying yesterday he wants a phase-out to start by the end of 2008.

"There are some 4 billion of these plastic bags floating around the place, getting into landfill, ending up affecting our wildlife, and showing up on our beaches while we are on holidays," Environment Minister Peter Garrett said yesterday.

"I think most Australians would like to see them rid. We think it's absolutely critical that we get cracking on it," Garrett, once president of the Australian Conservation Foundation, told local media. "We'd like to see a phase-out implemented by 2008," he said.

China launched a crackdown on plastic bags on Tuesday, banning production of ultra-thin bags and forbidding their use in supermarkets and shops from June 1, 2008.

Many countries such as Ireland and South Africa have experimented with heavy taxes, outright bans or eliminating the thinnest plastic bags, while some towns and cities have taken unilateral action to outlaw plastic bags.

"We've certainly had a system in place that's been voluntary up to now, where you've got people coming into the supermarkets and they have the opportunity to take up those canvas bags," said Garrett.

Garrett said he would meet with the leaders of Australia's six states and two territories in April to discuss the phasing out of plastic bags.

But it is unclear how Australia will rid itself of plastic bags, whether like China it will issue an outright ban or like Ireland impose a levy. Garrett said he was not personally in favor of a levy as it punished shoppers.

"It has always been the policy of Labor to look at a total ban in 2008 and that is what minister Garrett is doing and we totally support that," said Clean Up Australia chairman Ian Kiernan. "But we are not in favour of a levy."

"We know that with the Irish example there was a dramatic reduction in the acceptance of plastic bags with the levy but that started to creep back and it has not proved to be effective in the long term," Kiernan said.

Plastic shopping bags are banned in Bangladesh, where they are thought to causing flooding during monsoons by clogging drains.

Growing awareness of the ecological impact of plastic bags have led main mass retailers to force customers to buy reusable plastic or non-woven bags. This has been adopted by supermarkets (like Carrefour) - they manage out of that scheme to improve their image and save the purchase of the former plastic bags. Nonfood related retailers (like Cloth) tend to prefer to switch to paper bags, allowing them to match the ecological demand & upgrade their image on two aspects: ecology & quality. In Paris, a nationwide ban on plastic bags is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2010.

Generally, most German supermarkets charge between 5 and 25 cents per single-use bag, depending on the type of bag. Most shops also offer cloth bags or sturdier, woven plastic bags for about 1, encouraging shoppers to re-use them. Many high-street retail shops will provide bags free of charge. Most people will re-use single-use shopping bags, i.e. for collecting deposit bottles or using them as bin liners.

New Zealand
In early 2007 a nationwide campaign was kicked off with the aim of introducing a shopping bag levy similar to Ireland's.

Plastic shopping bags are banned in Taiwan.

United Kingdom
Growing awareness in the UK of the problems caused by indiscriminate use of plastic bags is encouraging some large retailers to reward customers who bring their own bags or who reuse or recycle existing bags. This has been adopted by Tesco, who call it the 'Green Bag Scheme'. This scheme gives the customer a "Green Clubcard Point", which has the monetary value of 1p, for every bag they reuse (or indeed if they use any bag that isn't taken from the Tesco bag holders, such as a backpack they own). Retailers in Modbury have voluntarily eliminated usage of plastic bags, the first town in the country to do so. The Saffron Walden branch of Waitrose has eliminated free carriers completely, only supplying bags for life, with other branches within the chain trialling individual "green tills" where no free bags are supplied. Prior to its closure in July 2007, Kwik Save charged 5 pence for customers to use their plastic bags, to encourage people to take less.

A campaign called has started in the UK and is spreading around the world. It involves making shopping bags out of recycled, unwanted material and handing them out for free. It is known as 'sociable guerilla bagging'.

On 24th July 2007 commenced a petition for a 10p tax to be introduced on disposable plastic bags, with the money raised to be spent specifically on environmental projects. More than 10,000 signatures were obtained within the first two months and the petition has been specifically endorsed by the Green Party. At the Liberal Democrats conference in September 2007 the Lib Dem party activists called for a tax on plastic bags in similar terms.

United States
Plastic bags largely displaced paper bags as the most common type of shopping bag during the late 1980s and early 1990s. There has been no broad government action against the litter problem, although some local governments have enacted ordinances, and many stores allow customers to return the bags for recycling. Empty bags carried on the wind are popularly known as "urban tumbleweed."

On March 27, 2007, the City and County of San Francisco became the first city to ban common plastic shopping bags. Starting July 2007, all large supermarkets in the state of California will be required, by law, to take back and recycle plastic shopping bags.

Portland Oregon is next to ban Plastic bags according to Thanh Tan of news Channel KATU. See the news video Video. Currently Trellis Earth Products of Portland Oregon is one of the only manufacturers of corn based Bio bags.

Plastic shopping bags are banned in at least 30 villages and towns in Alaska, including the towns of Emmonak, Galena, and Kotlik.

Ikea, the home furnishings retailer, imposes its own charge for plastic shopping bags in the US — charging $0.05 to any customer who wants a plastic sack.[13] A similar charge has been in place since spring 2006 at Ikea stores in the UK, and the company says it has reduced use of bags in UK stores by 95 percent. Ikea hopes the 5-cent fee in the U.S. cuts bag use in half, from 70 million bags a year to 35 million.

The island of Zanzibar banned the import and use of plastic shopping bags in November, 2006. People who litter used bags are responsible for a significant problem, and government officials enacted the ban to protect tourism, an economic mainstay for the island.

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