The days of using thick plastic bags and plastic takeaway containers could be numbered as the Territory Government goes out to consult on the next phase of its single-use plastic ban, expected to come into effect next July.
This time, it’s proposing to ban boutique and heavyweight, thick plastic bags (greater than 35 microns), single-use takeaway containers, as well as single-use plastic plates and bowls. Alternatives like cardboard, sugar cane or reusable plastics could be used instead.
It will also seek to ban the kind of plastic microbeads which are found in rinse-off personal care, cosmetic and cleaning products.
The government said the latter are already largely being phased out by industry.
Polystyrene products and packaging will also be in its sights, but the government has signalled there may be exemptions for white and brown goods like fridges and televisions.
The Territory Government does not have the legislative ability to ban products packaged with polystyrene from coming into the Territory, but it could prevent local businesses from using it to package goods for sale and distribution in the ACT.
Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said movement in this area would essentially need to be led by the Federal Government.
Polystyrene can currently be recycled and turned into domestic building products in Sydney and Melbourne, but in the ACT, it is not recyclable, and the government’s official advice is to “avoid its use and dispose of responsibly in your rubbish bin or landfill”.
The government is seeking comment from businesses, industry and the community on the proposed next stage of the ban.
Mr Steel said the government had taken a progressive approach to phase out single-use plastics and had thus far received widespread community and business support.
On 1 July this year, cotton buds with plastic sticks, single-use plastic straws (with exceptions for people who require them) and oxo-degradable plastics were banned.
Items like single-use plastic cutlery and drink stirrers, expanded polystyrene takeaway food and beverage containers and thin plastic bags have been prohibited in the Territory since that ban came into effect last year.
Thin plastic bags were banned in 2011.
Businesses breaching the ban can be slapped with a $40,000 fine, but the ACT Government mostly continues to favour the educative approach for the moment, with no fines yet being handed out.
On Wednesday, Coles stores in the Territory began a trial ban on single-use fruit and vegetable plastic bags. Those so-called barrier bags were expected to be banned across the Territory in July this year, but the government ultimately determined a more comprehensive ban wouldn’t come into effect until a large-scale composting plant could manage the compostable versions of the bags.
Customers are being encouraged to bring in their own reusable options for fruit and vegetables and mesh alternatives are available to purchase.
In August, Mr Steel said he would be monitoring the trial closely.
Other states are also moving ahead with bans on various single-use plastic products. In NSW, a ban on items like plastic straws, expanded polystyrene food service items, plastic cotton buds, stirrers, plastic cutlery and plates will come into effect next month.
Local Canberra events continue to embrace the plastic phase-out. This year’s Spilt Milk music festival has committed to removing single-use plastic plates and bowls and single-use plastic takeaway containers.
Other plastic-free events include Floriade, Canberra Nara Candle Festival, Handmade Canberra Markets, National Multicultural Festival, Enlighten Festival and the Canberra Balloon Spectacular.