State Government to Ban Single Use Plastic Bags

The Town of East Fremantle recently gazetted to have the use of single use plastic shopping bags banned in East Fremantle.

However the Joint Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation (the Committee) resolved  to give a Notice of Motion in the Legislative Council to disallow the Local Law, as the the Committee is of the view that the adopted Local Law is 'significantly different' from that which was proposed, and  therefore, the Local Law was made invalidly and is of no effect.

When the Local Law was first proposed by the Town's Council on 21 March 2017:

  • 'single use plastic shopping bag' (SUP Bag) was defined to be less than 60 microns in thickness
  • 'reusable plastic bag' was defined to mean a plastic bag with a thickness of 60 microns or more. '

The Committee noted that WALGA recommended to the Town that the thickness threshold be lowered to 35 microns. This was to support a consistent approach with other States and Territories and to assist with the Local Law's acceptance in Parliament.

The timing of the amendment (at the end of the local law-making process) meant that the public (including the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries) was not consulted about the reduction in thickness threshold from 60 microns to 35 microns. The Committee advised that they were concerned that members of the public would have assessed the Local Law and based their submissions on a 60-micron threshold, and did not have the opportunity to consider the reduced threshold prior to the Local Law's adoption.

Although the overall intent of the Local Law was not changed by the late amendment, the Committee was of the view that a material aspect of the Local Law was changed as it 'now sought to ban the supply of thinner plastic bags, changing an integral part of the ban. Further, the ban may now not affect as many plastic bags, potentially narrowing the scope of the Local Law.'

Nevertheless, the recent State Government announcement about the ban supercede any local law that the Town would have had in place. 

In light of the announcements, the Town of East Fremantle will not be pursuing the introductions of a local law to ban single use plastic bags.

The state government has said in a media statement:

Plastic bags make up a relatively small portion of solid waste and litter but can significantly harm marine wildlife and birds which can inadvertently eat or become entangled in plastic bag waste.

Lightweight, single-use plastic shopping bags will be banned in Western Australia from July 1 next year.

The State-wide ban will bring Western Australia into line with South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory which already have plastic bag bans in place. Queensland has also vowed to ban the bag from July 1, 2018.

WA's plastic bag ban has garnered widespread support across the local government sector in recent months and among major retailers which are some of the biggest suppliers of plastic shopping bags.

Major supermarkets Coles, Woolworths and IGA have indicated their intention to ban single-use plastic bags while some WA retailers - including Aldi and Bunnings - already support the ban by not offering single-use plastic bags to their customers.

Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:

 "This is a positive step to address plastic pollution across the State.

 "This includes a ban on single-use plastic bags and the introduction of a container deposit scheme for Western Australia which will limit the amount of plastic beverage containers that end up in the waste stream.

 "The community and the retail industry have already been working to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic bags for more than a decade.

 "The number of plastic bags used every year continues to grow and therefore it's time for the State Government to act, in the absence of a national approach.

 "There are alternatives to single-use plastics and we need to move beyond single-use items and promote sustainable futures for our children."

 Comments attributed to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:

 "There's been an overwhelming response from people in the community who are really keen to see a State-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. I especially want to thank each and every school student across Western Australia who wrote to me about their desire to see the McGowan Government take action.

 "My job, as the Minister for Environment, is to protect the State's unique environment for future generations and today's announcement is the next step in reducing the impacts of plastic bags on our environment.

 "Studies have shown plastic pollution has a significant impact on our environment - seabirds have been found with their digestive tracts packed with plastic fragments and turtles can confuse plastic bags with jellyfish.

 "We will continue our efforts to reduce the amount of waste generated, prevent littering, increase material recovered from the waste stream, and reduce waste destined for landfill."