As the second largest employer of any industry in Australia, and the largest employer of young people, the retail sector has a crucial role to play in the Australian economy.

A strong retail sector means more jobs for more Australians, not to mention better access to goods and services for Australian consumers. But as one of Australia’s largest industries, we also have the power and potential to implement measures that have positive effects more broadly.

A classic example of this is the phasing out of the single-use plastic bag. Earlier this year Queensland joined the ACT, Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania as the latest state to implement a bag ban. This also coincided with major supermarkets enforcing their own ban, while Victoria and Western Australia are in the process of phasing out plastic bags.

Consequently, the NRA estimates that a total of 1.5 billion single-use plastic bags have been eliminated nation-wide since July. In addition, retailers are reporting a drop in overall plastic bag consumption of over 80 per cent.

All retailers – large and small – deserve an enormous amount of credit for this achievement. Not only has the sector led the way on one of the more significant changes to consumer behaviour in a generation, but they have successfully navigated the challenges posed to their business by the bag ban.

Moreover, major supermarkets have also diverted profits from the sales of alternative bags to community sector groups such as Landcare, Clean Up Australia, Little Athletics Australia, SecondBite and Guide Dog. Shoppers can therefore be heartened to know that the small price they now pay for bags is going to very worthwhile causes.

Nation-wide retailers have also played an important role by providing smaller businesses with a template on how to best manage the transition away from plastic bags. Similar changes are now also being made across the food, homeware and service categories.

There have certainly been bumps along the way, but by and large the phasing out of single-use plastic bags has been relatively successful. The entire retail industry deserves to take credit for this and the transition exemplifies the power of the retail sector when we work together to effect positive change.

For further information on any queries you may have please do not hesitate to contact the NRA at 1800 RETAIL (738 245).