Produce bag rule changes
Based on industry feedback and technical analysis, the WA Government has decided to amend the regulations relating to produce bags supplied for loose fresh fruit and vegetables.
Official communication from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (15 November 2023):
Following submissions from retail sector stakeholders, the Hon. Reece Whitby MLA, Minister for Environment has decided to amend the regulations implementing Western Australia’s Plan for Plastics to allow for produce bags that are certified as compostable and can be used as caddy liners for food organics garden organics (FOGO) systems.
The change in position was to minimise unintended outcomes, such as increased food wastage (e.g. purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables in prepackaged quantities larger than needed) and potential price increases for fresh food (e.g. a consequence of increased theft where bags are not transparent).
As produce bags will need to be suitable for holding fresh produce; for use as a FOGO caddy liner; and to ensure bags are easily identifiable for the community, a design standard that addresses these requirements may be necessary.
To avoid consumer confusion and resultant FOGO contamination, it would also be preferrable that consumers are not offered a mix of compostable and conventional plastic produce bags for different types of unpackaged perishable food.
The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation will consult with impacted industries on these issues to determine whether the ban on non-compostable produce bags should be extended to include barrier bags for meat and dairy products, and the need for a design standard.
To ensure industry has sufficient time to prepare for this change, and to align with a similar change coming into effect in South Australia, the implementation date will be moved from 1 March 2024 to 1 September 2024.
Summary of the confirmed changes
- Plastic produce bags which have achieved an Australian composting standard (AS 5810 or AS 4736) will be accepted as compliant alternatives. These bags were previously included in the ban.
- The sale or supply of plastic produce bags for loose fresh fruit and vegetables will be banned from 1 September 2024 (instead of 1 March 2024).
Further changes are being considered
The WA Government is considering expanding the ban on produce bags for fresh fruit and vegetables to include:
- produce/barrier bags supplied for other unpackaged produce such as meat, nuts, and deli items
- design standards to ensure bags could be multi-use as compost caddy liners
- design standards to ensure bags are labelled or clearly identified as AU certified compostable.
To help inform these decisions, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) plans to provide opportunities for industry consultation in coming months.
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