Fremantle on track to becoming WA’s first plastic bag free city
The City has moved a step closer to becoming Western Australia’s first plastic bag free city after the City’s strategic and general services committee last night (Wednesday 11 July 2012) supported a draft local law which would prohibit retailers providing plastic bags to shoppers.
The draft local law will now be presented to a full meeting of council on 25 July for formal adoption, after which time a six week formal public advertising and comment phase will begin.
The move to ban plastic bags in Fremantle would have a two-fold effect of reducing waste sent to landfill and also reducing the risk associated with plastic bags in the natural environment -particularly in the oceans surrounding the city and its other water catchment areas.
Fremantle Mayor, Dr Brad Pettitt, who was a member of the plastic bag working group, said the in-principle support of the local law was a positive first step in adopting the new law: “There is a lengthy process to getting this law passed but I’m pleased that the first hurdle has now been crossed for Fremantle to become WA’s first plastic bag free council.”
“We’ve also had discussions with the Towns of Vincent and Nedlands about getting them to pass similar legislation at the same time. This hasn’t been confirmed yet, but we think a collaborative approach would maximize the benefits and we’re happy to share our findings with other like-minded councils,” Dr Pettitt said.
In a separate initiative, the City has recently ordered biodegradable dog refuse bags to replace those currently provided at parks and reserves. It is expected that the new bags will be available for use within the next few months.
Draft Plastic Bag reduction Local Law 2012 – key points
- single use plastic shopping bags (less than 60 microns) cannot be provided
- alternative shopping bags – which are defined as over 60 microns or compostable according to Australian Standard AS4736 – can be provided by a retailer with a minimum charge of 10c
- the modified penalty for any offence in the local law is $150
- there is no obligation for a retailer to provide a bag at all if a retailer doesn’t already or would prefer not to
- there will be a period of six months between the law being gazetted and it being implemented - This will allow time for the Joint Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation to review the law and for the City to plan and implement a comprehensive communication and education campaign
- an enforcement strategy, including the resources required for enforcement, will be reviewed in the lead up to the laws adoption; however, the City expects the law to be largely self-regulated by retailers.
The process for enacting a local law is exacting and rigorous and typically takes approximately six months. The key steps are in order of completion are:
- resolution of council of intention to make the local law
- advertising of the draft local law for comment – at least 42 days (six weeks)
- notify the Minister for Local Government and Regional Development
- consideration of public comment
- if there are no “significant” changes, council can resolve to adopt the local law
- notification of the local law to the State Law Publisher
- advertise the adoption of the local law
- notify the Minister for Local Government and Regional Development of final adoption
- preparation of an explanatory memorandum and explanatory memorandum checklist for submission to the Delegated Legislation Committee.
In February 2012, the City resolved to become a plastic bag free city and subsequently established a plastic bag working group made up of City of Fremantle and community representatives. The aim of the working group was to conduct research and develop a draft local law to prohibit retailers providing plastic bags to shoppers.
The working group were instructed to provide definitions of exactly which plastic bags and/or products will be banned and how these would be identified, develop a compliance process and review if a minimum price should be set for provision of single-use, plastic alternative bags.
Since its establishment, the working group has held weekly meetings which have focused on the mechanics, legality and structure of a local law, as well as initiatives to engage with local stakeholders.
The working group also researched other existing plastic bag laws and decided that the South Australian model was a good starting point for the City’s local law.