What a Waste Expert Says

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 of
correctly, plastic bags were an extremely efficient waste product.
Australian journal, The Age, reports that Bob Beynon, who chaired the National
Packaging Covenant Group, said as a non-degradable product, plastic shopping
bags did not contribute to the problem of dangerous chemicals leaching out
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 degrading
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 half
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 in which
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 on the
number in the litter stream," he said.

"A tax on plastic bags will not address the littering issue - the major
cause of concern."