Reusable Planet Blog - The Single-Use Plastic Ban
Author: Rachel Date Posted:23 January 2021
UPDATED 1.03.21 to reflect Victoria's advancement
Plastic is cheap, versatile and useful for a multitude of purposes. In fact, it’s hard to avoid.
However, it has also contributed to a disposable mindset that has resulted in a growing environmental problem. More and more we are seeing the impacts of the plastic pollution disaster in Australia and globally.
When it ends up in the wrong place, plastic negatively impacts the environment, devastates wildlife and affects human health. When it ends up in landfill, we’re just parking our toxic problems for the future.
Research suggests around 50% of all plastic produced is used just once and then discarded. This includes packaging. Less than 9% of plastic produced globally is currently recycled. And we just keep using and discarding more and more of it.
In fact, we have produced more plastic over the last ten years than during the whole of the last century. In 2019, 368 million metric tonnes of plastic was produced globally! Australia’s share of that was 3.4 million tonnes, generating about 3 million tonnes of plastic waste, or 120 kg per person.
So, what are we doing about it?
- Most state governments have introduced container deposit schemes
- Most state governments have banned plastic shopping bags
- Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia all have single-use plastic bans coming into effect
- The federal parliament has passed legislation banning the export of unprocessed waste overseas via the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020.
There is currently no overarching federal legislation in regard to reducing plastic use, so here’s the latest state of play with plastic bans for each state and territory around Australia!
Most state governments have introduced container deposit schemes to encourage the recycling of bottles and cans, as well as bans on plastic shopping bags (35 microns or less). Those states that don’t, have plans in place to do so.
The big focus now is in addressing the other prolific single-use plastics with high environmental impact such as coffee cups (most disposables are plastic lined with a plastic lid), water bottles, cutlery, straws, takeaway containers and other high volume disposable plastic.
Many countries across the world are banning single-use plastics to varying degrees and 170 nations have pledged to significantly reduce use of plastics by 2030. In 2021, countries that have or are introducing bans this year include EU member nations, Canada, United Kingdom, Taiwan, France, some US states. Even China has banned single-use plastic straws.
In Australia the push is there, but are we really ready, willing and most of all able, to ban single-use plastics?
I think we are!
Already many event and market organisers have made their events more eco-friendly by banning some single-use plastics for catering. It’s more common to find paper than plastic straws in-venue. Many retail chains have switched to paper bags instead of thicker plastic bags.
At a local level, the Plastic Free Movement is gaining traction in helping businesses transition away from single-use plastics through the establishment of plastic free precincts across Australia, making a big impact.
The momentum is there!
Hobart City Council was the first in Australia to introduce a single-use plastic ban, voting 8-4 in favour of a by-law in March 2019, saying, "We've set a precedent that now hopefully many other councils will follow." It comes into effect this year.
South Australia, Queensland, the ACT and Western Australia are also at various stages of implementing similar bans at a state level. [It’s important to note there are exemptions, most notably for people with healthcare or disability needs.]
If your state government is dragging the chain on banning single-use plastics, send them a message to ban the 10 worst single-use plastics for our environment via the WWF petition. (Tazzie, NT, NSW and Vic, we’re looking at you!!!)
CHART: Plastic Ban Status by State
*Victoria has included a pathway to a single-use plastics ban since this article was
So let’s get into the nitty gritty…What's happening in...
BAGS: Banned single use lightweight plastic shopping bags 35 microns or less as of 1 November 2019.
CDS: Victoria has indicated it will introduce a container deposit scheme in 2023.
SUPs: Public consultation conducted in 2017 showed strong community support for a ban on some single-use plastic products. Victoria supports a voluntary phase-out of thick plastic bags, a national phase-out of microbeads and says it will promote national conversation about reducing reliance on single-use plastic items.
So though plastic pollution is clearly a major concern to the community and a wide range of plastic pollution issues were raised during the consultation process, the government has promised to develop a plastic pollution plan for Victoria, but not much is going on in this space to date.
UPDATE 1.03.21: Over the weekend, Victoria's Environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced that Victoria intends to pursue a ban of certain single-use plastics including polystyrene containers, straws, cutlery, plates and plastic cotton bud sticks. In making the announcement, Lily D’Ambrosio said that Victorian's each send an average of 68kg of plastic waste to landfill every year and single-use plastic items make up about one-third of Victoria’s litter.
This year (2021) will see consultation with businesses and the community as part of a regulatory impact statement process, with the ban aiming to take effect by 2023. Good news!!!
BAGS: Plans to legislate a ban on single use plastic bags 35 microns or less in 2021.
CDS: The NSW container deposit scheme Return and Earn began rolling out 1 December 2017.
SUPs: The NSW government released a discussion paper seeking public views on what it should be doing to address the plastic pollution problem in the State, including phasing out single-use plastics and a target to reduce plastic litter items by 25% by 2025.
Consultations closed in May 2020 and the government is still reviewing the feedback received.
BAGS: Banned single use lightweight plastic shopping bags 35 microns or less as at 1 November 2011 - the second jurisdiction after South Australia to do so.
CDS: The ACT container deposit scheme commenced 30 June 2018.
SUPs: Passage of the Plastic Reduction Bill is expected to occur in early 2021 with phase one drafted to commence on 1 July 2021, banning three key single-use plastic items - cutlery, stirrers and expanded polystyrene takeaway food and beverage containers.
It also provides the responsible minister powers to declare a public event single-use plastic-free.
The ACT Government plans to expand the phase out in 2022 to include items such as plastic straws, produce bags and oxo-degradable plastic products.
Items targeted for bans beyond 2022 include plastic-lined single-use coffee cups and lids, plastic serving ware, cotton buds with plastic sticks and heavyweight plastic bags.
BAGS: Banned single use lightweight plastic shopping bags 35 microns or less as of 1 July 2018.
CDS: The Queensland container deposit scheme Containers for Change commenced 1 November 2018.
SUPs: With a successful consultation process completed with an overwhelming 94% community support, the Queensland Government’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan proposes to ban single-use plastic straws, stirrers, plates and cutlery.
However, commencement has been postponed from July 1 2020 to 1 September 2021 due to COVID-19. The Government expects the bill will pass parliament early this year.
Queensland's health directions temporarily banning BYO coffee cups due to the pandemic have been relaxed in recent weeks to allow contactless pour.
Continued strong support will see other single-use plastic products like plastic lined coffee cups and lids, polystyrene containers and cups, heavyweight plastic bags and plastic balloon sticks banned in a future phase.
BAGS: Banned single use lightweight plastic shopping bags 35 microns in 2013.
CDS: Tasmania has indicated it will introduce a container deposit scheme in 2022.
SUPs: Hobart City Council was the first to introduce a single-use plastic ban in Australia via a by-law, which will commence in 2021.
The by-law only applies to businesses that provide or sell takeaway food and affected businesses will have up to a year to comply before penalties apply.
The Council anticipates the by-law will result in a 600-tonne annual reduction in single-use plastics to landfill. The City also maintains hundreds of stormwater litter traps and socks to prevent marine pollution in general.
The City of Launceston council will ban single-use plastics at UTAS Stadium, events, markets, sponsored events and other activities on council-owned land by 2022.
The statewide Rethink Waste Tasmania initiative supported by member Councils aims to improve efforts at reducing, reusing and recycling to decrease the over 900,000 tonnes of waste Tasmanians generate each year that ends up as landfill.
Tasmania has not followed suit at a state government level. This is despite data from the Environmental Protection Authority Tasmania indicating takeaway packaging contributes up to 50% of the litter stream and that approximately nine million single-use plastic items are thrown away each year in Hobart alone.
BAGS: South Australia was a nation-leader with the banning of single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags 35 microns or less, commencing the initiative way back in 2009.
CDS: Ahead of the curve again, South Australia has had a container deposit scheme in place since 1977. Kudos!
SUPs: South Australia’s ban on single-use plastics commences 1 March 2021 after becoming the first state in the nation to pass legislation (September 2020) to ban the sale, supply and distribution of single-use plastic products such as straws, cutlery and stirrers.
The ban will expand to include other items such as polystyrene cups, bowls, containers and plates in early 2022 with a framework to add more items in the future.
Oxo-degradable plastic products will also be prohibited from manufacture in the state.
BAGS: Banned single use lightweight plastic shopping bags 35 microns or less from 1 July 2018.
CDS: The WA container deposit scheme Containers for Change was implemented on 1 October 2020.
SUPs: The Western Australia Government released a consultation paper in 2019 to strong community support (98%) on options to reduce single-use plastics.
The resulting Plan for Plastics will be implemented in two phases complemented by voluntary approaches.
The first stage will be rolled out from 2020 to 2023 with education and trials of plastic free precincts. Legislation for a phase-out single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws, thick plastic bags, stirrers, polystyrene food containers, and helium balloon releases will be developed and implemented by late 2023.
The second stage will be rolled out from 2024 to 2026 and will ban single-use plastic produce bags, microbeads, polystyrene packaging, cotton buds with plastic sticks and oxo-degradable plastics.
The plan also includes actions on prepacked fruit and vegetables, takeaway food and beverage containers and plastic packaging.
BAGS: Banned single use lightweight plastic shopping bags 35 microns or less way back in September 2011.
CDS: The NT container deposit scheme commenced in 2012.
SUPs: The City of Darwin banned single use plastics from all events held on Council land as of 1 January 2019 including markets. The ban includes disposable coffee cups, smoothie cups, lids, straws, cutlery, stirrers, plates, bowls, takeaway containers and the deliberate release of helium balloons.
Despite being ahead of the curve with the plastic bag ban and CDS, there is currently no statewide consultation or plans in place for a ban on single-use plastics.
At the Federal level, the Greens have proposed legislation to establish a mandatory product stewardship scheme for manufacturers, importers and distributors of consumer packaging to reduce the use of single-use plastics and plastics in packaging.
The Bill also proposes to ban lightweight plastic shopping bags, products consisting of microbeads, cotton buds with plastic sticks, balloon sticks, connected rings, non-compostable single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls, expanded polystyrene and oxo-degradable plastic in single-use food or beverage containers.
However, this is unlikely to progress quickly. The Bill was referred to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee in 2019 for inquiry and report, which has been delayed due to COVID-19. The report is expected later this year.
The National Waste Policy was released in 2018, followed by the National Waste Policy Action Plan 2019. This plan included targets to reduce per capita waste, ban the export of waste by mid-2020, increase resource recovery, phase out unnecessary plastics and halve organic waste going to landfill by 2030 and has included establishment of an Australian framework for product stewardship.
If you’re a business wanting to move away from single-use plastic, don’t wait until a ban comes into effect!
Plastic Free Precincts are popping up all over Australia in a partnership between Boomerang Alliance and the Australian Packaging Covenant (APCO) with the aim to assist businesses phase-out the use of single-use plastic products with reusable, recyclable or compostable alternatives.
Notably, the Plastic Free Noosa project eliminated or replaced over 3 million single use plastic items in its first 18 months, including over 1 million straws, 280,000 coffee cups, 750,000 containers and cups, and 260,000 pieces of plastic cutlery.
As at the end of March 2020, over 5 million single use plastics had been eliminated or replaced by Plastic Free Precincts.
If your business wants to transition away from single-use plastics please contact your nearest Plastic Free Precinct
If you’re a consumer, when now is a better time to start changing your behaviours with BYO! Get ready to rock up to your favourite sandwich and salad bar or takeaway dinner joint with your own reusable containers ready to be filled up. Get yourself a kit organised in a dedicated bag, hang by the door or keep it in the car so it's ready to go when you are.
Rummage around in your cupboards for a coffee cup, container/s, straws, cutlery wrapped in a cloth serviette and a smoothie tumbler if you're prone to juices and smoothies on the run. Or check out the value bundles we have in the store if you're needing a few new additions.
Check out Responsible Cafes to find BYO friendly cafes and takeaways near you, and then tag them on your socials with a shout-out!
Finally, if your state is dragging the chain on banning single-use plastics, send them a message to ban the 10 worst single-use plastics for our environment via the WWF petition page. (Tazzie, NT and Vic, still looking at you!!!)
Not bored of the topic and want to know more? Here's some interesting links we found in our research.
QLD - ecobiz.cciq.com.au