THE Sunshine Coast looms as the spark zone that could ignite a statewide ban on plastic shopping bags.
Queensland Conservation Council executive director Toby Hutcheon is convinced the strong level of LNP ministerial representation on the Coast, combined with a general public embrace of green initiatives, makes us the perfect region to test a ban that is already in place in South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT.
In those states, single-use plastic shopping bags with a "thickness" of 34 microns or less, are banned.
Heavier duty bags, like you might get from Myer, as well as the smaller ones you put fruit and vegetables in, are not banned.
In this state, North Stradbroke Island is the only spot so far to have banned the bags, with interest also shown from Agnes Water, Seventeen Seventy and the Gold Coast.
Target stores nationally banned free bags in June 2009; and at chains like Aldi and Bunnings, it's bring your own, get a box or balance your stash in your arms until you get to your car.
Mr Hutcheon said the Council was buoyed by a promise from the former Bligh government to include a proposal to implement a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags within two years, as part of its Waste Act, passed in parliament in November 2011.
"However at the eleventh hour, it was removed from the Act," he said.
"My observation is the then state government didn't want to be more of a target than it was going to be on waste, and it removed that because some major retailers didn't like the idea."
Executive director of Keep South Australia Beautiful (KESAB) John Phillips has heard that argument before.
He was on the taskforce that worked on a two-year build-up to ban day in South Australia: May 4, 2009.
"Industry put up every barrier they could. They said it was going to put them out of business, they said they were going to have to sack people and their sales would go down, and that is just not the case. We got the unions involved to determine what it would mean for members in terms of training.
"We talked with Woolies and Coles about the replacement bags they could use. And of course, they did very well out of it, because they could charge a fee for these bags.
"We ran a very clever advertising campaign, we had a three-month sunset period, a 1800 number for complaints and overall it was a very smooth transition."
But what about the old chestnut of the convenience and resusability of these shopping bags, especially as bin liners?
"This is all about removing these bags from the waste stream to protect the marine and land environment, to protect wildlife and reduce the volume and cost of landfill.
"I know we are asking people to do more, to change their behaviour and mindset, but that's the way of the world.
"As for the bins, some people put a lining of newspaper in their kitchen tidy and put their rubbish on top. It doesn't need to be tied up in a plastic bag.
"This is one of the few things people can do as an individual to help the environment.
"When you talk about global warming, you can't touch it or feel it. But plastic bags and (drink) containers are things people deal with every day."
Mr Phillips urged Queensland regulators to follow South Australia's example, saying a ban was inevitable.
"The Australian Packaging Covenant is being renegotiated and industry will be obliged to work to that tune," he said.
"And that covers everything from e-waste, to tyres, mobile phones, plastic bags, plastic containers.
"If you are going to reduce the impact of waste on landfill, especially as landfill stations are placed further away causing transport costs to go up, thereby raising a carbon tax issue, it is inevitable.
"It's about someone with the balls to
get it up and running and to engage the community.
"You've got to have a starting point and you've got to be controversial.
"Here in South Australia however, I just don't hear any complaints. It's not an issue here anymore. It is not even on our minds as a discussion point.
"It's done. We've moved on."
Mr Hutcheon said the new state government was reviewing the Waste Act and the Conservation Council had reminded it of the two-year ban proposal.
"We want to know if there are communities that want to go bag-free, and we are talking to chambers of commerce in interested communities about how we can work together.
"We need to create a lot of noise. And the Sunshine Coast is politically key to this because you've got so many LNP members and many of them are ministers. The minister for the environment, Andrew Powell, is in Glasshouse.
"Big community noise transfers to political pressure."
John Phillips will speak at a Conservation Council/Healthy Waterways event at Manly on November 20. He will join Clean Up Australia Day founder Ian Kiernan and Target managing director Dene Rogers as guest speakers on the day.