Seven years after the ACT banned single-use plastic shopping bags, the ACT Government is proposing to ban all single-use plastics, saying plastic bags are only one part of a much larger plastics problem.
Under the new proposal, ACT Minister for City Services Chris Steel wants to ban coffee cups, plastic cutlery, cups, straws, lightweight plastic bags, takeaway containers and cotton buds.
A recent review into the ACT’s plastic shopping bag ban said there is no easy solution to Canberra’s “plastic addiction” but estimated that plastic bags represent less than one per cent of the waste going to landfill in the ACT.
It is the Government’s ambition to have 90 per cent of waste being diverted from landfill by 2025, and Mr Steel believes a broader approach to single-use plastic is a logical approach to achieve that goal.
“Our fondness for single-use plastic, such as plastic cutlery, cups, straws, packaging and lightweight plastic bags, has grown considerably,” Mr Steel said. “It is estimated that 10 million straws are used in Australia every day, and can take up to 200 years to degrade into micro-particles.
“Plastic straws used today will outlive your children’s, children’s children.
“Single-use plastics, including but not limited to lightweight plastic bags, are an issue of both public and environmental concern.”
The ACT wants to follow in South Australia’s footsteps after it announced it would consider a single-use plastic ban last month. Mr Steel said South Australia has recognised that there is a clear benefit in addressing the related issues of single-use plastic bags and other single-use plastics, which is an approach the ACT Government supports.
Last year’s review into the Government’s plastic bag ban found the ban was reducing plastic use, but it raised questions over thicker plastic reusable bags, as well as compostable and cotton alternatives.
The report concluded that the ban has had a “marked impact on the ACT’s consumption of single-use plastic bags”, but that plastic consumption appears to be gradually returning to the levels seen prior to the ban’s introduction.
Mr Steel said plastic bags have become a symbol of Canberra’s ‘throwaway society’, and one of the benefits of banning plastic bags was to raise community awareness of broader environmental and sustainability issues.
The ACT Government will release a discussion paper to gauge community feedback around the proposal and will launch an information paper on moving beyond single-use plastics, including plastic bags in the coming months.
“I want the ACT community, businesses and industries to tell us how the ACT should address single-use plastics,” Mr Steel said. “We will consult with the community on banning these products or taking alternative regulatory or other measures.”