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A state-wide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags came into effect in Victoria Friday, 16 months after the law was first passed. 

Retailers — including supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, pharmacies, and clothing stores — that provide bags with a thickness of 35 microns or less to shoppers can now face an almost $50,000 AUD fine. 

Likewise, individuals who run markets or online stores caught supplying plastic bags can now also be handed fines of up to $9,900.

Minister for Energy, Environment, and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio says the ban is a vital step in helping protect the state’s wildlife, oceans, rivers, and waterways from pollution.

"This ban will slash waste, reduce litter, and help protect marine life in Victoria’s pristine waters,” she said. “An overwhelming 96% of Victorians are in favor of banning single-use plastic bags, and we’ve delivered. We’ve been working closely with businesses to plan for the ban — to help them to play their part in protecting our environment.”

The ban was first revealed in 2018, but retailers were given until now to prepare and access sustainable alternatives. 

To support the move to reusable packaging, the National Retail Association (NRA) has conducted almost 200 tours of shopping centers throughout the state to assist retailers to source non-plastic bag options. The Environmental Protection Authority is also working to help manufacturers and wholesalers understand the new legislation. 

NRA Chief Executive Dominique Lamb said community consultation showed 96% of Victorians were in favor of the ban, and thousands of retailers had already removed single-use plastics from their stores.

"Overwhelmingly retailers are embracing this policy,” Lamb said in a statement. “We know that consumers are very supportive, and most businesses have already moved to implement more sustainable options well ahead of Friday’s deadline.”

According to the charity organization Ocean Crusaders, Australia dumps 36,700 tons of plastic bags into landfill each year.

That amounts to around 4,000 plastic bags each minute or 230,000 every hour. 

Bans on single-use plastic bags have been introduced already in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory. 

Alongside the majority of Australian states, major supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths also already have their own bans.


Defend the Planet

Victoria Has Officially Imposed Its State-Wide Plastic Bag Ban

By Madeleine Keck