The ACT Government will become the first in Australia to be able to declare public events single-use plastic-free under a bill to be introduced into the Legislative Assembly today (2 December).
The legislation to begin banning single-use plastics, delayed by the pandemic, will come into effect from July 2021, and cover cutlery, drink stirrers and polystyrene takeaway food and beverage containers.
It will pave the way for the banning of other single-use plastic products as part of a phased approach.
Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel said the government would also be able to ban single-use plastics from public events such as Floriade, music festivals and sporting matches with three months’ notice, as long as there are alternative products available and it does not have an unreasonable impact on the event.
“This means single-use plastics could be banned at both government and non-government events, including a wider range of plastic items than those prohibited for the general community,” he said.
Mr Steel said the phase-out would expand in 2022 to items such as straws, barrier bags for fruit and vegetables, as well as all products made from degradable plastic.
“Items such as plastic-lined single-use coffee cups and lids, single-use plastic dinnerware, boutique or heavyweight plastic bags, and cotton ear buds with plastic sticks are currently under consideration by the ACT Government for future phase-outs from 2023 onwards,” he said.
There will be exemptions, such as for people with a disability who need to use straws will still be able to obtain and use them.
The legislation provides for enforcement and penalties, and inspectors will have right of entry to businesses, although the government says it wants to take an educative approach with business.
Under the legislation, from July 2021, it will be an offence to supply a prohibited plastic product, with penalties of up to 50 penalty units and infringement notices available.
But it will not be an offence to supply a prohibited plastic product in a non-business setting, for example, from a parent to a child at a picnic.
The government says public consultation on the legislation showed strong community backing for banning single-use plastics.
Mr Steel said the legislation sought to reduce Canberrans’ use of plastic and reduce its impact on the environment and the ACT’s waste management and resource recovery systems.
“Single-use plastic products cannot be economically recycled and these resources end up in natural environment and our land-fill. This Bill sends a strong signal to the community that we need to move away from single-use plastic and to a circular economy,” he said.
Mr Steel said it was time for businesses to start moving away from supplying single-use plastic products, and the government had allowed time for them to do so before the legislation comes into force.
”They should do so by using up existing stocks of single-use plastic, and purchase and transition to alternative products if necessary,” he said.