'Problematic' plastic products set to be banned across Australia

Rebecca GredleyAAP
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Australia’s environment ministers are planning to phase out a range of “problematic and unnecessary” plastic products over the next four years.

Lightweight plastic bags, straws, utensils and stirrers are among the list of products the ministers want to eliminate by 2025.

The hit list was created to provide greater certainty for industry, as the states have been chasing differing bans on plastic items.

South Australia’s Liberal government has been ahead of the curve, with single-use plastics banned in the state since March.

Victoria and Western Australia already plan to phase out and ban a raft of plastic items by 2023.

A raft of single-use plastics will be phased out by 2025.
Camera IconAustralia's environment ministers have agreed to phase out a raft of single-use plastics by 2025. Credit: AAP

Queensland and the ACT have also passed laws to ban single-use plastics including straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates and bowls.

As a result of the meeting, Tasmania and the Northern Territory now have commitments to see single-use plastics phased out by 2025.

Plastic products to be eliminated in Australia

  • Lightweight plastic bags
  • Plastic bags misleadingly termed as degradable
  • Plastic straws
  • Plastic utensils and stirrers
  • Expanded polystyrene food containers like cups and takeaway boxes
  • Expanded polystyrene packaging
  • Microbeads in personal care products

South Australia leading measures on single-use plastics

South Australia’s ban on single-use plastics, such as straws and cutlery, was the first of its kind in Australia.

The measures were passed in parliament in September last year but were put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They were designed to allow more items to be progressively added to the banned list, with the government targeting polystyrene cups, bowls and plates to go by early 2022.

Fines could be imposed on businesses that don’t comply with the new rules but SA Environment Minister David Speirs said he didn’t think they would be necessary.

An art piece showing plastic waste in Bulgaria
Camera IconThe WA government is moving to ban single-use plastics to reduce waste ending up in oceans. Credit: EPA

“I don’t expect that to be the case because I think first and foremost, consumers are driving this and businesses by their very nature need to respond to consumers,” the minister said last year.

“They need to respond to the market in order to grow their consumer base and make a profit by jumping on board, and making this transition, a transition that many businesses have already gone through.”

Speirs said the wider community was fully supportive of the new measures and were “hungry for change”.

SA Environment Minister David Speirs (file image)
Camera IconEnvironment Minister David Speirs says the SA community is fully supportive of the new measures. Credit: AAP

“There has been an overwhelming call from the community for urgent action on single-use plastic products,” he said.

“Single-use plastic products are designed to be used a limited number of times, often away from home, and thrown away, usually resulting in litter, waste and harm to wildlife, including marine life.”

In Western Australia, the government will ban plastic plates, cutlery, stirrers, polystyrene food containers, thick plastic bags, and the release of helium balloons by 2023.

Other single-use plastic items like produce bags, microbeads and cotton buds will be phased out by 2026.

‘The time to act is now; plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to wildlife around the world.’

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson says only 11 per cent of Australia’s plastic is recycled and the rest ends up in landfill.

“The time to act is now; plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to wildlife around the world,” he said last year.

“Reducing our dependence on single-use plastics will help reduce our impact on the environment, waste streams and human health.”

The minister said the state government also planned to tweak laws to ban plastic election signs.

Plastic waste
Camera IconLightweight plastic bags, straws, utensils and stirrers are among the list of products the ministers want to eliminate by 2025. Credit: AP

WWF policy manager Katinka Day commended the plan, but called on the WA government to introduce the legislation this year rather than waiting until 2023.

She said it was important to turn momentum into more immediate action.

“Our precious oceans and marine wildlife cannot afford to wait,” Day said.

“As we look at how we’re going to emerge from the COVID-19 health crisis, it’s really important we don’t forget about the huge impact plastic has on our environment.”

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