New bid to ban plastic bags in Wollongong

Plastic bags could be a thing of the past for Illawarra grocery shoppers if moves to ban them in the region's Coles and Woolworths stores are successful.

Wollongong City Council has written to the supermarket giants, asking them to consider ditching plastic bags in all their Illawarra stores.

In exchange, the council has suggested shoppers receive 10 free reusable bags per year and have access to a "bag bin" where they could borrow green bags and return them on their next visit.

The council's waste management co-ordinator, Fiona Netting, told the Mercury she hoped the supermarkets would "lead by example".

"We'd love for there to be a similar outcome as there has been in other states where bags are banned," she said.

"It would increase the supermarkets' 'green' credibility, decrease littering and it would definitely be a win for the environment."

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The request comes after the council unsuccessfully appealed to the state government to introduce a NSW-wide plastic bag ban.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA), on behalf of the government, told the council it was committed to reducing plastic bag use but argued it needed to be done without "increasing the cost pressures on families or the cost of groceries".

Ms Netting said the council was disappointed with the response.

"Other states that have introduced the plastic bag ban are diverting 400 million single-use plastic bags from landfill each year, it's a huge result," she said.

"We know it can work, that's why we want to keep it on the agenda and encourage other people to get on board."

Ban the Bag Illawarra member Carolyn Lee labelled the comments a "cop-out".

"The state government hasn't been supportive ... it's interesting that no mention is made of the invisible cost of plastic bag distribution in customers' grocery bills," she said.

Ms Netting agreed, noting plastic bag costs were often subsumed within shopping bills.

The council has responded to the EPA, seeking clarification on several points.

It is still waiting for a response from Woolworths and Coles.

In the meantime, Ms Netting said the council would continue to work with Ban the Bag Illawarra to devise local strategies to reduce plastic bag use.

She said plastic bags did not break down in landfills and they were not reused correctly.

"We'll continue to push this message and have asked other local councils to support it too."

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