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The decision by the Queensland government to ban all disposable plastic shopping bags has been welcomed by industry, with the Boomerang Alliance calling it a step up in the attack on polluting single-use plastic items.

The plan to introduce a Reusable Shopping Bag Standard will ensure that all shopping bags moving forward will be genuinely reusable. Disposable coffee cups are now also centre of the agenda. 

“The introduction is an important precedent that will combat greenwash and waste,” said Toby Hutcheon, campaign manager for the Boomerang Alliance.

“It’s the missing piece of the jigsaw we have all been waiting for. The key to reducing heavyweight plastic bag use is in facilitating shoppers to repeatedly use their own bags. Reuse will also reduce consumer costs.” 

He said that the Reusable Bag Standard, which was proposed by the Boomerang Alliance, in partnership with the National Retailers Association, means that all reusable shopping bags will need to be designed for multiple use by achieving a minimum 125 shopping cycles, be strong and durable, made from recycled materials, and collected for recycling at the end of their useful life.

Bags that don’t pass the test will not be available. 

“We urge all other states and territories to join Queensland in regulating a Reusable Bag Standard, and introducing a ban on non-compliant bags by September 2023,” Hutcheon added. 

“With the state government aiming to phase out disposable coffee cups, the Boomerang Alliance is calling for urgent action by other states to join Queensland in taking this action.

“We need a national and harmonised ban on problem coffee cups by 2023. An estimated one billion are used and end up littered or in landfill every year. Boomerang will be releasing a policy in the coming months.” 

Queensland has announced its second tranche of plastic bans, which includes a ban on plastic stemmed cotton buds, microbeads in personal care and cleaning products, and loose polystyrene packaging.

“Of particular significant is the ban on the mass release of lighter than air (helium) balloons, a ban that will be warmly welcomed by all those concerned about the devastating effects of these balloons on marine life.”

In related news, Queensland has advanced its place towards the top of WWF-Australia’s plastics scorecard with the release of a new plan to ban harmful single-use plastics, including disposable coffee cups and lids, cotton buds with plastic stems, and polystyrene packing peanuts.

Environment minister Meaghan Scanlon announced the five-year roadmap, which will also include a ban on the mass release of balloons and a mandate that heavyweight plastic bags meet a reusability standard.

“It’s great to see the Sunshine State balancing high ambition with a thoughtful approach to transition away from unnecessary and problematic single-use plastics,” said Kate Noble, WWF-Australia’s No Plastics in Nature policy manager.

“This plan will stop some of the most damaging single-use plastics from entering Queensland’s beaches and waterways.

“It will also create a real opportunity for Queensland to not just transition away from single-use plastics, but move towards a more sustainable approach where re-use is normal and our use of disposables is massively reduced.”

Today’s announcement sees Queensland edge ahead of South Australia to claim outright second place on WWF-Australia’s plastics scorecard, which rates the performance of states and territories in tackling single-use plastics. 

The 2022 scorecard, released for the start of Plastic Free July, has Western Australia maintaining its top spot thanks to its ban on single-use plastic bowls, plates, cutlery, straws and polystyrene food containers last year. 

South Australia is in third place with further commitments expected this year, while the ACT, NSW and Victoria are tied for fourth. Tasmania and the Northern Territory continue to lag behind in fifth and sixth place respectively.

Noble said she was thrilled to see such great progress across the country.

“Our first scorecard in 2019 rated just one leader (South Australia) and five states and territories lagging behind. We now have six governments taking real action on plastics and plans to phase out at least some unnecessary plastics in every jurisdiction,” she said.

“This will make a real difference to wildlife and ecosystems that are under serious threat from plastic pollution.

“Phasing out these products is really important to help Regenerate Australia and shows government leadership that we know people want.

“Now it’s up to all of us to step up and make sure we’re refusing single-use items and re-using as much as we possibly can – switching from single-use plastic to other single-use products isn’t the way forward.”

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