Waste Expert Rubbishes Australian Bag Tax
The taxing of plastic bags could back-fire
on the environmental movement and
cause more harm than good, according to a waste expert in Australia.
The former head of the committee which recommended
the federal government
defer a 25 cent levy on plastic shopping bags said today that if disposed
correctly, plastic bags were an extremely efficient waste product.
Australian journal, The Age, reports that Bob Beynon, who chaired the
Packaging Covenant Group, said as a non-degradable product, plastic
bags did not contribute to the problem of dangerous chemicals leaching
of landfill and into the water table.
"What's best suited for landfill is
inert material," he said.
"Once in landfill, plastic bags have no harmful effects, unlike
material, they don't emit methane and other greenhouse gases."
Plastic bags used to hold garbage also formed
an environmental barrier to
prevent harmful leachates entering the soil, he said.
Mr Beynon said while the eight billion plastic
bags used in Australia each
year needed to be cut dramatically, the debate needed to focus on educating
people who litter, introducing biodegradable alternatives and encouraging
Federal and state environment ministers agreed
in December not to introduce
a levy on bags, but called on retailers to reduce plastic bag use by
over two years.
Further consideration would be given to a
levy if the measures did not work.
Under the National Code of Practice for plastic
bags - to be finalised in
April - shoppers are likely to see the testing of supermarket lanes
plastic bags are shunned, staff asking if bags are needed, and more
promotion of plastic bag recycling and alternatives in stores.
The push for a levy followed its introduction
in Ireland early last year
where plastic bag use was cut by up to 90 per cent.
But Mr Beynon said a 25 cent tax could cost
the average family up to $140 a
year and would have no effect on littering.
"Anecdotal evidence out of Ireland suggests
there has been a major reduction
in the use of plastic bags in supermarkets but only a marginal effect
number in the litter stream," he said.
"A tax on plastic bags will not address
the littering issue - the major
cause of concern."