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Environment ministers' meeting in the bag -

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LISA MILLAR: The days of the plastic shopping bag in Australia could be over, with federal and
state environment ministers meeting to discuss exactly how to get rid of it.

It's on the top of today's agenda, but the difficulty will be getting the states to agree on
exactly how to do it.

Also on the table at today's meeting is Australia's poor recycling rate.

South Australia thinks a national deposit scheme for glass and plastic bottles might help.

Environment reporter Sarah Clarke is at the meeting in Melbourne and she joins me now.

Sarah, on the issue of plastic bags, just what options are on the table for the governments to
consider to get rid of it?

SARAH CLARKE: Well the two options they're discussing at the moment is, number one, a mandatory
charge. Now, that charge might be something that, say, retailers charge shoppers when they're
actually at the checkout, say 10 to 15 cents for those shoppers who feel obliged or still want the
plastic bag to take their shopping home.

The other suggestion is a Commonwealth levy, so the money collected here would obviously go to the
Commonwealth. Suggestions are that money could then be put back into investing in, say,
environmental operations or environmental schemes to help reduce this.

Now, the Commonwealth has said it's opposed to this, so we'll wait and see what comes out of
today's meeting's, but the second option that's also on the agenda is looking at an outright ban,
so getting rid of plastic bags altogether. Giving shoppers no alternative and no option other than
to take it home in the reusable or the... or boxes.

So South Australia supports that, but so... and New South Wales, I think, supports that to a certain
extent, or are enquiring about that, and Victoria's kind of keen on the levy. So we're yet to see
where each state will declare their hand, but they're the options on the table.

LISA MILLAR: Well if the Commonwealth's opposed to the tax on the plastic bag, what is its
preferred option?

SARAH CLARKE: Well, the Commonwealth hasn't actually spelt out what option it wants. It said it
doesn't want a levy, because it doesn't want the shoppers to see the Commonwealth raising this as a
tax, but of course it raises the scenario of, well, where does that money go? If there is a levy or
a charge, should retailers keep that money?

And of course I don't think shoppers will be keen on the retailers actually keeping that money and
spending elsewhere. Some environmental groups have said why don't we... the retailers keep that money
and then that money can either be donated to charity or again begin looking at some form of
environmental investment.

So it's quite a big issue, and no doubt we'll be given some good reason for robust discussion today
in this meeting.

LISA MILLAR: Now, on this issue of glass and plastic recycling, South Australia's pushing for a
national deposit scheme. What sort of support has it got, if any?

SARAH CLARKE: Well, this comes down to Australia's recycling record. Now, we had a draft audit that
was released about a week and a half ago saying that Australians aren't doing well on recycling
plastic and glass bottles.

We've got a target that's set up under a voluntary scheme that says we should be recycling 65 per
cent of our waste by 2010. We're currently only recycling about 40 per cent.

And this is where South Australia says, why don't we run a scheme like the national deposit scheme,
where people purchase, say, a plastic or glass botte, and when they take that back to a collection
point, then they get a return. South Australia's had this in place for 31 years, and they say it's
doubled their recycling, it's reduced litter, and it works, so therefore why can't the rest of
Australia do it, why can't we have a national deposit scheme.

There is some support for that, but again, it's something... we're yet to see where the states vote
on this, and they will be... we're expecting or hoping they'll make some form of decision today,
rather than kind of coming out and saying we'll discuss this at the next meeting that we have.

This is the first major meeting we've had of all these environment ministers since the Rudd
Government came into power.

LISA MILLAR: Environment reporter Sarah Clarke, thanks very much. Sarah's at the meeting in
Melbourne of the environment ministers.