In 2002, EPHC resolved to reduce the environmental impacts of plastic bags. A voluntary retailer Code of Practice was the primary mechanism developed to achieve this. The Code operated from 2003 to 2005 and committed major retailer signatories to achieve a 50% reduction in plastic bag use by 2005. Major retailers reduced plastic bags use by about 41-44% and, nationally, Australians reduced overall plastic bag use by about 34%. Given the limited potential for subsequent voluntary initiatives to significantly reduce plastic bag use, in June 2006 EPHC committed to phase out plastic bags by the end of 2008, and to consider regulatory options for achieving this. EPHC reaffirmed this objective in June 2007.
A Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) was released in January 2007. The Consultation RIS found that regulatory options for a phase-out had economic costs which significantly out weighed the environmental benefits.
In April 2008, EPHC noted the analysis presented in a Decision RIS on plastic bags, particularly the financial costs of regulatory options, and resolved to not endorse uniform regulatory action at this time to ban or place a charge on plastic bags.
Documents associated with the activities relating to plastic bags can be downloaded below.