The Australian Retailers Association, which has some 12,000 members including retail giants Woolworths and Coles, has said that it will oppose the proposed bill to charge a 25 cents (US$0.14) levy on each plastic bag used at supermarket checkouts.

Despite a similar levy in the Republic of Ireland being shown to significantly reduce plastic bag consumption, the association said it did not understand what impact taxing plastic bag usage could have on the litter problem caused by plastic bags. Australia uses some 6bn plastic bags each year, many of which end up being thrown away. More than 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles are killed worldwide every year by plastic rubbish.

“A simplistic, knee-jerk reaction to plastic bags in the environment needs to be widened and broadened to finding long-term and sustainable solutions,” association policy director Stan Moore told the Hobart Mercury.

“Plastic bags in the environment is essentially a litter problem which needs to be addressed via changing consumer disposal behaviour,” he added.

A recent survey in Australia showed that around 80% of people support the proposed levy.