Why is the City of Fremantle introducing this local law?

Australians are one of the highest producers of waste per person, in the world.  Despite our reduction in plastic bag use Australians still use over 4 billion plastic single-use bags each year.

Checkout style plastic bags are made from non-renewable petroleum and are used for just minutes. They can take hundreds of years to break down and cause significant environmental problems.

As a guide, on average half a million single-use plastic shopping bags are collected every year on Clean Up Australia Day. Over 20 years of Clean Up Australia Day data shows plastic is the most common category of rubbish picked up.


What does this local law aim to achieve?

As there is no state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags in Western Australia, the proposed Plastic Bag Reduction Local Law aims to reduce the use of single use plastic shopping bags within the City of Fremantle. Other local governments in Western Australia are introducing similar laws.

When will this local law come into effect?

Fremantle Council adopted the Plastic Bag Reduction Local Law 2017 on 26 April 2017. However, there is still a lengthy process until the law can go into effect. 

There are several factors that will influence the outcome but a draft timeline is provided below and on the project page on My Say Freo. If the Local Law is successful it is estimated it would commence in May 2018 as per the timeline:

  • July - August 2017: Advertising period.

  • September – October 2017: Collate submissions and Council resolution based on submissions.

  • November 2017 - January 2018: If Council resolve to proceed the Local Law would then be published in the Government Gazette and reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee. Further updates would be provided following this, but as a guide if the Local Law was successful it would not take effect until a further 180 days (eg May 2018). 

  • Approximately May 2018 (180 days after advertising in Government Gazette): If approved, Local Law takes effect.

This transition period of 180 days (nearly six months) has been provided to allow for old stocks of bags to be depleted and alternative options to be purchased. 

Shoppers

Which bags are banned?

The local law will prohibit retailers from selling or giving you single use plastic bags defined as:

  • carry bags with handles;

  • made in whole or part from PP (polypropylene), PE (polyethylene) or PET (polyethylene  terephthalate);

and 

  • less than 35 microns thick.

Retailers may choose to supply or sell bags that meet the requirements of the local law.


What do I need to do when I go shopping?

The best option is to bring your own bags or a box and reuse them many times.

There will still be a range of bags allowed under the local law and retailers may choose to supply these to you if they wish. They may offer complying bags for free or for a charge. These options include:

  • biodegradable/compostable bags (AS 4736/2006)

  • paper bags

  • calico bags

  • jute bags

  • hemp bags

  • re-useable plastic bags (over 35 microns thick).

Barrier bags, the type that are typically dispensed from a roll and used for loose fruit and vegetables, are still allowed.

You can take your own single use plastic bags back to the store to re-use, but the retailer cannot provide you with a new one.

Take a look at our infographic for examples of allowed bags.


Which shops will this apply to?

The ban applies to all retailers operating in Fremantle and its suburbs, including specialty stores.


What's wrong with plastic bags?

Checkout style plastic bags are made from non-renewable petroleum. While plastic bags can be recycled, typically only a small percentage are collected and re-processed. This also doesn’t account for the resources that go in to producing bags which last just minutes.

These bags can take hundreds of years to break down, if they do. In the process they cause significant environmental problems. One area of concern is the marine environment. The CSIRO estimates that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than marine life. Plastics directly kill marine life through ingestion and entanglement and have also entered the food chain. 

Plastics are the main item collected every year on Clean Up Australia Day and on average half a million single-use plastic shopping bags are collected every year on this day. Local and State Governments around Australia also spend more than $200 million per year picking up litter.

For more information on these facts see the document library and relevant links


How do I carry meat and fish products hygienically?

These products are usually already wrapped, but if you suspect they may leak barrier bags (bags on a roll without handles) can still be used to carry any products.


How do I dispose of things like nappies?

Barrier bags (bags on a roll) will not be banned. These can be used for nappy disposal, as can other packaging such as bread bags.


What can I use to pick up dog poo?

The City of Fremantle already provides certified biodegradable and compostable dog poo bags in all of its parks and reserves. Please use the bags provided.


What do I use to line my bin?

Bin liners have only been in use for a few decades. The proliferation of single use plastic bags has made it an easy, but wasteful, alternative to wrapping rubbish or washing bins.

There are a number of practical alternatives including:

  • reuse other types of plastic bags (such as bread bags) to wrap rubbish

  • put newspaper on the bottom of your rubbish bin.

You may also find if you compost food waste and recycling other items there is little mess and no need to line your bin at all.

If you can’t go without a bin liner, we recommend you choose biodegradable/ compostable bags that will degrade fully in landfill. There are a number of businesses that supply plastic bags and bin liners that meet these requirements. Some suggestions can be found in the links section.

Past research suggests that the purchase of bin liners will not increase significantly as single use plastic shopping bags are reduced. Between 2005 and 2006, the number of shopping bags used in Australia dropped by 560 million, but the number of bin liners sold increased by 38 million

What if I am offered 'degradable' bags?

Some bags are marketed as ‘degradable’. These bags are of serious environmental concern because they simply break down into smaller pieces which are harder to collect and contaminate the food chain. They do not comply with the local law.  

Degradable bags are often confused with biodegradable bags. Biodegradable bags are fully compostable and made of material that has been assessed in accordance with AS4736-2006.


What about the environmental impacts of the ‘green’ reusable bags?

There is no perfect solution to the problem, but compared to single use plastic bags, green bags use less materials, generate less carbon dioxide, consume less energy and use less water over their lifecycle. Green bags are washable and, after an average two years of use, recyclable. Some information can be found in this document by Sustainability Victoria (external link). 

Retailers

Will this apply to my business?

if you are in the City of Fremantle, yes. The ban applies to all retailers operating in Fremantle LGA (Fremantle and suburbs) regardless of the size or nature of your business. This includes specialty stores and those supplying food and pharmacies.

What do I need to do?

The local law will prohibit you from selling or giving away single use plastic bags which are:

  • carry bags with handles;

  • made in whole or part from PP (polypropylene), PE (polyethylene) or PET (polyethylene  terephthalate);

    and

  • less than 35 microns thick.

See the proposed Plastic Bag Reduction Local Law 2017 for the exact definition. If you are unsure about the composition or thickness of the bags you supply check with your supplier.


What bags can I supply?

Examples of bags that will still be allowed include:

  • biodegradable/compostable bags (AS 4736/2006)

  • paper bags

  • calico bags

  • jute bags

  • hemp bags

  • re-useable plastic bags (over 35 microns thick).

Barrier bags, the type that are typically dispensed from a roll and used for loose fruit and vegetables, are still allowed.

Depending on your business, you may also like to consider re-using boxes that you have been supplied with. Customers should also be encouraged to bring their own bags.


What about 'degradable' bags?

Some bags are marketed as ‘degradable’. These bags are of serious environmental concern because they simply break down into smaller pieces which are harder to collect and contaminate the food chain. 

Degradable bags are often confused with biodegradable bags. Biodegradable bags are fully compostable and made of material that has been assessed in accordance with AS4736-2006.

If you are unsure about the composition of the bags you supply check with your supplier.

What if a customer brings in their own plastic bag?

A customer can supply their own plastic bag.


Will this cost me?

No. You are not required to offer an alternative shopping bag to customers at all. If you currently buy single use bags to give away free to customers this is a cost that you will no longer need to incur after the law is enacted.

You may choose to supply an alternative bag to customers which complies with the new law. You can offer these for free or for a charge to recover the cost you pay to purchase these.