Single-use plastics to be banned in the ACT

The phase out of single‑use plastics in the ACT will begin in 2020.

The phase out of single‑use plastics in the ACT will begin next year with legislation to be introduced to ban certain problematic items where there is an alternative available.

Minister for Recycling and Waste Reduction Chris Steel said Canberrans are overwhelmingly supportive of strong regulatory action to ban single-use plastics.

“Times have changed and our community and our government wants to reduce the legacy of plastic waste in our environment for following generations.”

Items that will be banned immediately from the commencement of legislation include:

  • Plastic cutlery
  • Expanded polystyrene takeaway food and beverage containers
  • Plastic stirrers

12 months after the legislation the following items will be banned:

  • Plastic fruit and vegetable barrier bags
  • Oxodegradable plastic products
  • Plastic straws, except for people who need them

In the longer term, consideration will be given to phasing out other single-use plastic products including:

  • Plastic lined coffee cups and lids
  • Single-use plastic dinnerware
  • More heavyweight plastic bags
  • Cotton ear buds

“Products like expanded polystyrene foam containers are a relic of the past and will be banned immediately because they are not sustainable, and there are clear alternatives already available,” Steel said.

“The ACT will become the only jurisdiction in the country to ban fruit and vegetable barrier bags, providing a 12 month lead in time after the legislation is passed for supermarkets and grocers to put in place alternatives.

“We won’t be proposing to ban plastic lined coffee cups or single-use plastic dinnerware at this point in time, but we are placing them on the list for future action.”

In relation to coffee cups, this is due to the current voluntary ‘swap and go’ coffee cup scheme being introduced in Canberra cafes this month.

In relation to plastic plates, the Government is concerned about plastic dinnerware alternatives contaminating paper and cardboard waste streams following the COAG waste export ban.

Steel said the government has recognised that collaboration with the community, local businesses and other organisations will be important during the development and implementation of the legislation. Government ‘plastic busters’ will provide information and support for business during the transition.

Minister for Disability, Suzanne Orr MLA, said the government will work with disability representatives on the implementation of the ban to ensure that people with disability still have access to plastic straws if they need them.

“We’ve heard from the community that, for people with disability, there isn’t always an alternative option to plastic straws. With this in mind we will work alongside people with disability and their advocates to ensure this legislation works for people with disability, so our city stays the most inclusive city in Australia, while at the same time we protect our environment,” Orr said.

Steel said the ACT Government would continue to advocate for national recognition of regulatory approaches to phasing out single‑use plastics, providing a coordinated approach between jurisdictions. The ACT’s proposal was not supported at the recent Meeting of Environment Ministers in November.

It is anticipated that the Plastics Reduction Bill 2020 will be debated in the Legislative Assembly in the first quarter of 2020. A Next Steps policy document has been released outlining the plan will be made available at www.yoursay.act.gov.au/single-use-plastics

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