ADVICE FOR RETAILERS
The Western Australian bag ban affects all retailers who previously used lightweight plastic bags, including HDPE plastic, biodegradable, compostable, and degradable bags.
The ban applies to anyone who sells goods in trade or commerce. This includes supermarkets, department stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, fast food outlets, markets, mine catering companies, charity shops... and many other businesses.
If you are a retailer in WA and you still use banned bags after 1 January 2019, you can face fines of $5000.
Key Steps to Manage the Ban
IMPORTANT: 2022 BAG BAN
As of 1 Jan 2022, the WA government is replacing the current bag ban with a state-wide ban on ALL plastic shopping bags, including plastic-laminated paper bags. Additional plastic items, such as straws, cutlery and foodware, will also be banned. Enforcement of the new legislation will commence 1 July 2022.
1. FIND OUT IF YOUR BAGS ARE BANNED
All retailers who supply lightweight plastic bags are affected by the bag ban and should take some time to understand the ban and its implications. About the ban >
Even if your bags are technically compliant you may want to consider alternative options to align with consumer expectations and trends. Remember, 87% of WA households indicated strong support for the bag ban.
The NRA strongly recommends that retailers do NOT use plastic bags close to the minimum thickness.
Ask your bag supplier to provide evidence of the thickness (microns or ‘um’) of your bags. Make sure this thickness is above 36 microns in every part of the bag (not an average or approximate). If you do use plastic bags it is safer to go well above the threshold (eg. 70 microns plus) and consider recycled content.
Suppliers face substantial fines for providing false or misleading information about banned bags from 1 July 2018.
2. PHASE OUT ALL EXISTING STOCK OF BANNED BAGS
Retailers should cease buying banned bags from 1 July 2018 and deplete existing stock as quickly as possible.
Retailers face substantial fines if they supply banned bags to customers after 31 December 2018.
The NRA believes that retailers should consider exhausting all banned bags by 1 July 2018 to align with national initiatives and to avoid customer confusion or backlash.
3. INTRODUCE ALTERNATIVES
Each business has unique needs and customers and you should weigh up the best option for you, such as providing no bag at all, or a choice of paper, cardboard, woven, fabric or heavyweight reusable plastic bags.
You may choose to charge a small fee for compliant bags to cover costs, but this is completely up to you.
Business owners and senior managers will need to weigh up the options available and make the decisions based on key questions as follows:
You are not required to provide customers with a bag.
The bag ban presents an opportunity to assess whether you really need to offer bags at all. For example, you may already provide products in packaging or containers that the customer can carry or place inside another bag.
Retailers can substantially reduce the number of bags they give away (and the costs associated with this) by simply asking customers "Do you need a bag?"
4. TRAIN YOUR TEAM
A critical element of managing the ban in your business will be to prepare and train your team, particularly those who have regular contact with customers, such as checkout operators and customer service staff.
Depending on the alternatives you choose to offer, you may also need to consider changes to packing processes, point-of-sale areas and displays, as well as workplace health and safety issues such as packing weights and manual handling.
5. INFORM YOUR CUSTOMERS
The Western Australian Government ran an educational campaign from June 2018 to educate and prepare customers for the impending ban. In addition, the National Retail Association partnered with the WA Government to run a large-scale campaign in January 2019.
However retailers will need to be prepared to handle customer questions and objections.
One of the best things you can do to inform your customers is display the official signage in your store or near the point-of-sale.
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Please note: the advice provided on this website is designed to assist retailers in understanding the ban and weighing up options but is by no means exhaustive. Each retail business should assess and make decisions based on their own advice and situation.