Frequently asked questions

How do I dispose of things like nappies?

‘Bags on a roll’ which keep meat, fish, fruit and vegetables separate from other shopping will not be banned. They can be used for nappy disposal, as can other packaging such as bread bags.

How do I carry meat and fish products hygienically?

Barrier bags (bags on a roll) can be used to carry any products that you suspect may leak. Usually these products are wrapped, and a barrier bag provides an extra layer of packaging.

What can I use to pick up dog poo?

In some dog-friendly parks and reserves, local councils provide plastic bags to scoop dog poo. These bags will not be affected by the ban. Otherwise, re-use a ‘bag on a roll’ or bread bag.

What about the greenhouse gas impacts of the banned bags?

Based on using 10 light-weight bags per week over a 2-year period, the greenhouse gas impact of these bags:

  • has more than 3 times the greenhouse gas impact of a ‘green’ re-usable bag
  • consumes about 41⁄2 times more energy in their manufacture than‘green’ re-usable bags.

Starch-based compostable bags consume less than 1⁄3 of the energy but emit marginally more CO2 as they decompose. Unlike the banned plastic bags, compostable bags will completely breakdown.

How environmentally sound are the ‘green’ reusable bags?

Green bags win hands down according to scientific research which has studied the lifecycle environmental impacts of lightweight plastic bags and alternatives. Compared to cloth, paper and lightweight plastic bags, green bags use less materials, generate less CO2 (a greenhouse gas), consume less energy and use less water. Green bags are washable and, after an average two years of use, recyclable. The bags are recycled into long lasting plastic items such as park benches, playground furniture and bollards. Read the report. (Sustainbility Victoria (2007), Comparison of existing life cycle analysis of shopping bag alternatives).

What are the benefits of ‘green bags’ compared to single use plastic bags?

‘Green bags’ are made from polypropylene and these may never break down, or take a long time to break down, in landfill. The simple answer is that they shouldn’t go to landfill, they can be recycled into other longer lasting plastic items like park benches and bollards. It’s true that single use plastic bags can also be recycled, but few are. Even if ‘green bags’ are disposed to landfill they are still a much better option environmentally than single use plastic bags. Research carried out for the Commonwealth Government by Nolan ITU found that compared with ‘green bags’ manufacture of single use plastic bags created over three times the greenhouse gas and used almost five times as much energy. This report can be found here. The report also shows that biodegradable bags are a worse option than single use bags, stating: “Little or negative gain was found to be derived from the shift from single use bags to other single use bags such as biodegradable bags and paper bags, with potential litter gains offset by negative resource use, energy and greenhouse outcomes.”

What is the difference between degradable and compostable bags?

Degradable plastic bags are usually made of the same material as lightweight, checkout-style plastic bags but include an additive that causes the plastic to break into smaller and smaller pieces when exposed to light and oxygen. The ultimate breakdown to an environmentally benign endpoint is, at best, extremely slow. There is a range of available alternatives, including compostable bags made from renewable resources.

Can shoppers who have collected lightweight plastic bags re-use these for shopping when the ban starts on May 4?

Yes,  shoppers can re-use the banned bags when they go shopping. The legislation states that retailers cannot sell or give away the lightweight, check-out style shopping bags from 4 May. Please note that retailers cannot provide plastic bags to consumers, regardless of when these were collected.

I work for a not-for-profit/charity organisation. Can I provide plastic bags to my customers?

Retailers cannot provide plastic bags to customers where goods are provided for a charge. Please encourage your customers to “byobags”. You can also offer any of the substitutes that are not subject to the ban.