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Australia to Eliminate Plastic Shopping Bags

Australia's new environment minister says he wants to eliminate the use of plastic shopping bags by the end of this year.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said Thursday that it is absolutely critical to begin moving on the issue now. The former rock musician and long-time environmental campaigner says Australia produces four billion plastic bags each year, many of which end up in landfills.

Environmental groups have welcomed the announcement, but businesses question how the government plans to achieve the goal and whether it will actually benefit the environment.

Australian Retailers Association head Richard Evans says he opposes legislating a solution to what he said is a litter-management issue.

It is not clear whether the Australian government intends to impose a tax on plastic bags, or ban them.

The latest country to impose measures cutting down on plastic bags is China. Earlier this week, China announced that it will ban production of the thinnest bags and prohibit shops from giving plastic bags away for free.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.