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Millions of single-use plastic bags will continue to be handed out after Victorian ban

3AW News

Millions of single-use plastic bags will be handed out after the statewide lightweight bag ban comes into force next month.

Last year, the state government announced a ban would come into place on November 1 this year.

Under the new law, Victorian businesses can be fined up to $49,500 for continuing to provide lightweight plastic bags, but retailers are unlikely to be fined for flouting the ban because they were not adequately notified of the change.

Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association, said an independent contractor was hired to inform businesses of the changes, but failed to do so.

“Of our members, very few of them were actually approached or talked to about it,” he told 3AW’s Ross and John.

Additionally, many retailers were unaware that the criteria for thicker reusable plastic bags in Victoria is different to the regulations in other Australian states.

“It should be a federal regulation across every state and territory, not individual, so you don’t get this stupidity,” Mr Zimmerman said.

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Bakers Delight introduced 35 micron thick multi-use plastic bags last year, long before the Victorian ban.

However, Victorian regulation stipulates bags must be at least 36 microns thick to avoid the ban.

“We currently offer a 35 micron thickness bag, up from a 15 micron thickness single-use bag,” Joint CEO of Bakers Delight, Elise Gillespie, told Neil Mitchell.

“We’re one micron short, so that’s our issue.”

Bakers Delight bulk ordered its bags in 2018, so sought an exemption from the new bag laws to deplete 1.6 million 25 micron bags it already has in stock.

The business has appealed to the Environmental Protection Authority and been granted an exemption from the new law until March 2020.

Ms Gillespie said the business wants to do the right thing, but legislation communication has been poor.

“I would say that the communication has been what’s been missing,” she said.

“It’s massively challenging for retailers and small business owners.”

Last week, the state government revealed it will look into banning plastic bags of all thicknesses if use doesn’t decline after the lightweight bag ban.

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