Plastic bags

Close-up of a man holding plastic supermarket bags filled with groceries

In the past, Australians use up to 10 million plastic bags every day – an astonishing 4 billion every year. Of these, approximately 150 million end up in our oceans and waterways, contributing to an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped into the ocean every year.

These plastic bags fill our landfill, harm our wildlife, and break up into smaller and smaller fragments that continue to cause environmental harm. Most Victorian council kerbside recycling bins do not accept plastic bags, and only 3 per cent of Australia's plastic bags are currently being recycled.

Reusable bags

Wherever possible, use bags you already have at home such as backpacks or cloth bags for your shopping. Keep them handy so that you never need to take a single-use plastic bag. Reusable cloth bags such as cotton, calico or bamboo are a more sustainable choice because they are made from natural fibres.

Get used to saying a simple 'No bag please' at the checkout and have your reusable bag ready.

Aim to build better bag habits and refuse single-use plastics wherever you can.

Better bag habits

With better bag habits, remembering your reusable bags will become second nature. Before you leave home, don’t forget ‘Bag, wallet keys and phone'.

  • Everyone forgets sometimes, so make it easy on yourself and, keep some in your car, by the front door or stashed at work so that you always have reusable bags on standby. Get into the habit of returning bags to your stash spots once you have emptied the shopping, so that they will be there for next time.
  • Lightweight and compact nylon bags are widely available from major supermarkets, homewares stores and online retailers. Many major retailers sell reusable canvas shopping bags, so bring a bag for life, not for a single use.
  • Foldable cloth or nylon bags are around the size of a wallet when folded so they are easy to keep on you, in your handbag or backpack at all times for spontaneous shopping.
  • Most stores and supermarkets also offer alternatives at the checkout for a small fee, including cloth and string bags if you've forgotten to bring your own. Remembering your bags will save you from buying new ones and save you money in the long term.

A thumbs-down symbol on a drawing of a plastic shopping bag     A thumbs-up symbol on a drawing of a reusable cloth shopping bag

Recycling plastic bags and soft plastics

It is really important to keep soft plastic bags OUT of your kerbside recycling bin. Soft plastics are the number one contaminant of recycling, so make sure you don’t put your paper or other kerbside recycling into plastic bags.

Read more about recycling contaminants

Recycling requirements vary across Victoria, so check your local council to make sure you recycle right in your area.

Soft plastics including plastic shopping bags, can be recycled at many supermarkets through the REDcycle program.

Learn more about REDcycle

Reduce single-use plastics

While you are at it, try refusing and reducing other single-use plastic, like sandwich bags, freezer bags and garbage bags. Try substituting a glass instead of plastic container for your leftovers and wrap food scraps in a sheet of newspaper. One newspaper is much cheaper than a packet of plastic bags. Use your influence as a consumer and choose more sustainable packaging when shopping.

Plastic bag ban

The Victorian Government received over 8000 submissions in three months of public consultation on plastic pollution in 2017–18. These responses are informing the design of a ban on plastic shopping bags and determining other ways to reduce other plastic pollution.

Based on this information, a ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags will come into place by late 2019, with a supporting plastic pollution plan to prioritise our actions to reduce other types of plastic pollution.

Plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns thick will be banned, including degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic shopping bags.

In June 2018, the Victorian Government announced the next steps towards the legislative ban on lightweight single use plastic bags.

Step 1 – In 2018, the Victorian Government has begun educating retailers and the community about plastic pollution and how to use fewer plastic bags. This will ensure the ban, once introduced, will be as effective as possible.

Step 2 – Over 2018–19, the Victorian Government will develop a plan to reduce other types of plastic pollution in our environment. A reference group of government, industry, retail and community group representatives will be established to help develop a plastic pollution plan and advise the government on how we will tackle other types of plastic pollution.

Step 3 – A legislative ban on lightweight, single-use plastic bags will begin from the end 2019. Plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns thick will be banned, including degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic shopping bags.


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