Over the past five years Fremantle Council has been trying to implement a local law to ban businesses from providing single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags to customers. This initiative evolved from a strong community campaign, where the council received a petition of over 1,000 signatures requesting the removal of plastic bags from the City of Fremantle.
The original local law was submitted to the Joint Standing Committee of WA in 2013, however was debated and disallowed at this time. In the main the reason cited for this disallowance motion was a mandatory charge the City had included in the local law. The City removed this charge, and resubmitted the local law to Parliament in early 2015. In October 2015, the plastic bag local law was disallowed by the Legislative Council for the second time.
In April 2017, council adopted the Plastic Bag Reduction Local Law for the third time.
With a change in state government has come fresh hope for not only the local law being approved, but the potential for a statewide ban to bring WA into line with several other states and territories.
The local law
The purpose of the proposed local law will be to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags within the City of Fremantle.
The effect of this local law is to prohibit retailers providing single use plastic shopping bags and also to prohibit a person from supplying a single use plastic shopping bag and knowingly representing that the bag supplied is not a single use plastic shopping bag.
Before the local law comes into force, the City will provide retail businesses with further information designed to help business owners, their staff and their customers adapt to the local law.
If the local law is passed, in order to prevent these plastics from going into the waste stream or entering our marine environment, retailers will be required to cease providing plastic bags to customers. They will however be able to provide approved alternative bags including compostable or biodegradable bags, paper bags, non-woven bags, calico bags, jute bags, hemp bags or reusable plastic bags that have a thickness of 35 microns or more.
There will also be a full six month transitional period to enable retailers and customers significant time to make the change to alternative bag options.
Frequently asked questions
Why is the City introducing this law?
Despite our reduction in plastic bag use Australians still use over four billion plastic checkout–style bags a year–all of them made from non–renewable fossil fuels. We only use plastic bags for minutes, but many of them can take hundreds of years to break down.
What does the new law require me to do?
The ban will prohibit you from selling or giving away plastic bags made of polyethylene polymer less than 35 microns thick. Check with your supplier if you are unsure about composition or thickness.
Will the ban apply to all Fremantle retailers?
Yes. The ban applies to all retailers operating in Fremantle and its suburbs regardless of the size or nature of your business.
What about bags with ‘100% degradable’ printed on them?
Lightweight plastic bags marked ‘degradable’ will be banned because degradable plastics merely break down into smaller flakes which remain as damaging waste for many years. Only compostable bags that comply with Australian Standard AS4736–2006 will be permitted.
Will it cost me anything?
No. Retailers do not have to offer an ‘alternative shopping bag’ to customers at all.
Retailers may choose to charge for alternative bags, at their discretion, but are not required to do so. In doing so however you can recover the cost of what you pay a supplier for these bags which should ease any cost burden associated with this local law. If you currently buy single use bags to give away free to customers, remember that this is already costing you money which you won’t need to spend after the law is enacted.