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Coles Bay, Tasmania

Wineglass Bay. Photo courtesy of Freycinet and Coles Bay Tourism Association © Freycinet and Coles Bay Tourism Association

Wineglass Bay. Photo courtesy of Freycinet and Coles Bay Tourism Association

Ben Kearney, Coordinator of Plastic Bag Free Coles Bay and Local Bakery Owner © Planet Ark

Ben Kearney, Coordinator of Plastic Bag Free Coles Bay and Local Bakery Owner

Since April 2003, all retail outlets in Coles Bay, including both supermarkets, have banned plastic check-out shopping bags. In the first twelve months, they stopped the use of 350,000 plastic check-out bags.

Planet Ark worked for some months in partnership with Coles Bay retailers who were led in this endeavour by Ben Kearney, the owner of the local bakery.

Ben Kearney has inspired people right across Australia and around the world by coordinating Coles Bay - 'Australia's First Plastic Bag Free Town'. As a result, Coles Bay was awarded the Environmental Excellence Award by the Tasmanian Government. Ben Kearney also won the national Local Hero Award for 2005 at the Australia Day award ceremony and also Tasmanian of the Year in May 2005 for his efforts.

Coles Bay plays host to whales on their annual migration along the eastern seaboard. One of the reasons Coles Bay has gone Plastic-Check-out Bag Free is to protect these whales and to stop the plastic bag littering of the adjoining Freycinet National Park.

The Coles Bay ban on plastic checkout bags unleashed a firestorm of positive publicity both here and overseas.

"Going plastic bag free has been great for our business and great for our town. It has really bound the community together and united us with this common goal.

We are all now seeing how small changes to our habits can have a big impact on our local environment, and a huge impact on all the people who see what we have done down here.

Our customers and our staff love us not using plastic bags anymore. We have sent out bags to people in New Zealand the United Kingdom and the United States who have written to us wanting to know more about what we are doing to protect this amazing part of the world."

- Ben Kearney, initiator of Australia's first plastic bag free town