Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has thrown his support behind a movement urging Australian states and territories to ban the retail use of plastic bags, announcing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags that will come into effect from July 1, 2018.
Responding to mounting pressure in light of a Change.org petition launched by 'The Project' in April in collaboration with Clean Up Australia, McGowan revealed on Tuesday that the decision was, in part, influenced by letters to him from young Western Australian students.
"I've always had the view we should get rid of more plastics and clearly young people support it and I had a lot of letters from kids from local schools who are very supportive," he told 'The Project' on Tuesday night.
"It is good for the environment, it saves marine life and wildlife. I am a strong conservationist so anything that does that, has my support."
As of this year, South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT all have bans on plastic bags in place, with Queensland set to join them in 2018. In light of this, the original petition challenged McGowan, along with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Victorian Premer Daniel Andrews to match those states in banning the bags.
In the days following the launch of the petition, McGowan said that he believed the responsibility for a plastic bag ban fell to local councils around the state and was not under the jurisdiction of his government.
On Tuesday, he told 'The Project' that he now believes Western Australia will be able to get rid of more plastic bags with the statewide ban.
"If you have individual councils doing it, that is fine as a start. We had to work out how to do it," he said.
"I suppose if the state does it, it is obviously more comprehensive and you actually get rid of tens of millions of bags that way, rather than a piecemeal approach."
According to Clean Up Australia, Australians dispose of an estimated 4 million plastic bags, or more than 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste, each year. Only three percent of these are recycled, with the rest finding their way into the environment or landfill.
McGowan's announcement also comes after Australia's two biggest supermarket giants, Woolworth and Coles, both announced plans in July to phase out single-use plastic bags over the next twelve months.
And so the focus now turns to Berejiklian and Andrews to see who will be next to sign their name to a statewide ban on plastic bags in either NSW or Victoria -- Australia's two most populous states.
As for any advice from McGowan on how to enact those bans, he said it's quite simple: "People respect you doing the right thing.
"Obviously it creates a bit of controversy -- some people don't like it -- but, at the end of the day, they respect you doing a right thing."