( dpa ) - Environmentally unfriendly Australia hopes to follow China and ban plastic shopping bags this year, next year or some time in the future, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said Thursday.
"We would like to see the phase out implemented by 2008," Garrett told reporters. "We think it's absolutely critical that we get cracking on it."
Australia, the world's second-biggest per capita polluter after the United States, has mulled plans to get by without single-use plastic bags for at least a decade. A voluntary programme brought in five years ago has failed to put a dent in the 4 billion bags used each year.
The Australian Retailers Association (ARS) has lobbied against any restrictions.
"Plastic bags are a part of our lives," ARS chief executive Richard Evans said. "You can't legislate to change people's behaviour and that's what we've got here.
"We've got people suggesting that to save the planet you need to legislate. Anyone who thinks you can legislate to save the planet is off the planet."
Ireland was among the first to impose a levy on plastic bags. Taiwan banned free bags five years ago and China will follow suit in June.