Australia’s largest peak retail body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), has today welcomed the Queensland government’s new five-year strategy to phase out more single use plastics, saying it’s vital that our retail members are consulted on the implementation of future bans and that small businesses are supported through training and education in the transition away from products that are harmful to the environment.
The ARA represents almost two-thirds of Australia’s $360 billion retail sector and over 100,000 retail stores nationwide, including most of the country’s major retailers who will carry the weight of the rollout of these initiatives.
Single use plastics, including cotton buds with plastic stems, plastic microbeads and expanded polystyrene loose packaging will be banned from 1 September next year. At the same time, minimum standards for reusability and recycled content for heavy plastic bags are also due to come into effect. Plastic drinking cups, magazine pouches/wraps and single use produce bags for fruit and vegetables could also be banned in 2024.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra said the Queensland government’s roadmap sends a strong message about the severe damage single-use plastics are causing to the natural environment and highlights the critical role a strategic vision plays in minimising business cost and complexity in delivering these important changes.
“Addressing environmental challenges is a top priority for the retail industry, so we welcome the Queensland government’s roadmap which provides a clear pathway to a more sustainable and plastic-free future,” Mr Zahra said.
“Pleasingly, we’ve seen many of our larger retailers go above and beyond government mandates to eradicate single-use plastics. The advance notice that the Queensland government has provided in announcing these changes today is very welcome and should be more than enough time to allow for fulsome consultation with our sector to prepare for the September 2023 changes.
“However, the primary concern is for small businesses who’ve been in survival mode these past two years due to the pandemic – and now with rising business costs due to inflation. It’s important the government works with industry to provide these businesses with the necessary training and education so they can successfully transition away from these single use plastic items.
“It’s important our members are consulted properly on the implementation of the Queensland government’s roadmap – in particular, the major retailers who can have the biggest impact on the environment.
“The roadmap announced confirms that heavy plastic shopping bags can continue to be used beyond September next year, provided they meet minimum standards for reusability and recyclability. This is a common-sense approach that incentivises investment and innovation in the circular economy and is something we’d like to see replicated in the other states and territories.
“Consumers want to see action on plastics – plastic reduction programs top the list of corporate social responsibility strategies that resonate most strongly with consumers, according to research from the Queensland University of Technology.
“While our preference remains for one national approach to the phase-out of single-use plastics, today’s announcement is encouraging because it highlights the Queensland government’s desire to work with other jurisdictions. In the interim though, we will continue to help our members navigate the complexity of different bans in different states through a range of measures, including the recent launch of our member resource at retail.org.au/plastics.
“With the Queensland government’s roadmap, we have a clear plan to a better plastic-free future within the state. We now need to work towards national alignment, great industry consultation and consumer education.”
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About us: The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is the oldest, largest and most diverse national retail body, representing a $360bn sector which employs 1.3 million Australians and is the largest private sector employer in the country. As Australia’s peak retail body, representing more than 100,000 retail shop fronts and online stores, the ARA informs, advocates, educates, protects and unifies our independent, national and international retail community. To learn more about ARA’s exclusive member benefits and more, visit retail.org.au