Information for retailers

When did the ban start?

The ban came into full effect on 1 November 2011.

Which bags are banned?

As a retailer, you’re prohibited from providing single-use, lightweight polyethylene polymer plastic bags that are less than 35 microns in thickness. Check with your supplier if you’re unsure about the composition or thickness of your bags.

Which bags are not banned/still allowed?

  • Barrier bags—the type dispensed from a roll to keep meat, fish, fruit and vegetables separate from other grocery items.
  • Heavier reusable plastic bags—the type used by clothing and department stores and now sold at many supermarket  checkouts in the ACT.
  • Woven cotton or sturdy bags, such as ‘green bags’ designed for multiple use.
  • Compostable biodegradable bags certified to Australian Standard AS 4736-2006.
  • Paper bags.
  • Bin liners.

What about degradable bags?

‘Degradable’ bags are made of standard plastic  and have an additive which encourages them to break apart under certain  conditions. Degradable bags are also banned in the ACT as they result in similar environmental harm to standard plastic bags.

Only compostable biodegradable bags that meet Australian  Standard AS 4736-2006 are excluded from the ban. This is because these bags are usually made of plant starch or other compostable materials which biodegrade in the right conditions.

Does the ban apply to all retailers?

Yes. Every retailer needs to comply. This includes large and small retailers, supermarket and non-supermarket retailers, take-away food shop owners, and those selling at farmers markets and other markets.

How can I help my staff explain the ban to customers?

  • Display notices explaining to your customers why the ban is in place.
  • Remind customers that the ban has been introduced by the ACT Government and is being applied to all retailers in the Territory.
  • Explain that the ban is  helping to protect the environment and wildlife by reducing litter and the damage caused by lightweight plastic shopping bags.
  • Offer an alternative, compliant bag for customers to use.
  • Refer the customer to this website or to Access Canberra on 13 22 81.

Do biodegradable bags need to be marked to indicate they comply with the Australian Standard?

Yes. Biodegradable bags must state that they meet Australian Standard AS 4736-2006.

If asked, you must be able to validate that the bags comply by providing certification from the supplier or manufacturer.

What if a supplier misrepresents the bags they sell me?

You’re protected from unknowingly buying banned bags and supplying them to customers. If a supplier provides you with bags they know are banned, they’re guilty of an offence under the Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Act 2010

It is recommended that you check before buying that the environmental benefits claimed by the business you’re buying compostable bags from are substantiated and don’t contravene the principles in the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s publication Green Marketing and the Australian Consumer Law.
For more information: www.accc.gov.au.

Is the ban supported by legislation?

Yes. In December 2010, the ACT Legislative Assembly passed legislation to ban lightweight plastic bags in the ACT.

Download the Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Act 2010 from www.legislation.act.gov.au.

How is the legislation enforced?

The ban is enforced in the ACT by Access Canberra. Access Canberra aims to achieve compliance with laws rather than through prosecution.
If you don’t comply with the imposed ban, Access Canberra can issue an infringement notice or prosecute to stop you from supplying the banned plastic bags.