First plastics bans next year as part of phase-out

Ian Bushnell 18 December 2019 42
Plastic cutlery ban

The Government is set to ban plastic cutlery. Photo: File.

The ACT will begin phasing out single-use plastics next year, with the Government flagging legislation to immediately ban certain items related to takeaway food and putting the distributors of other products such as fruit and vegetable bags on notice.

The initial ban will cover plastic cutlery, expanded polystyrene takeaway food and beverage containers, and plastic stirrers, with business given a further 12 months before the next wave of bans.

Legislation proposed for 2021 will ban plastic fruit and vegetable barrier bags; oxodegradable plastic products, which break down into fragments; and plastic straws, except for people who need them, such as those with disabilities.

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

In the long term, plastic-lined coffee cups and lids, single-use plastic dinnerware, more heavyweight plastic bags and cotton earbuds are also in the firing line.

In October the government released the findings of its community consultation on the issue, which showed strong support for bans.

Minister for Recycling and Waste Reduction Chris Steel said the community demanded action on single-use plastics.

“The ACT Government will introduce legislation to ban the sale and distribution of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic products early next year,” he said.

“Canberrans are overwhelmingly supportive of strong regulatory action to ban single-use plastics, and the Government is acting.

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

Mr Steel said products such as expanded polystyrene foam containers were a relic of the past and would be banned immediately because they were not sustainable, and there were clear alternatives already available.

“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,” he said.

Mr Steel said the Government was holding off action on coffee cups, due to the current voluntary Green Cafeen ‘swap and go’ coffee cup scheme being introduced in Canberra cafes this month.

In relation to plastic plates, the Government was concerned about plastic dinnerware alternatives contaminating paper and cardboard waste streams following the COAG waste export ban due to come into force at the end of next year

Mr Steel said the Government recognised that collaboration with the community, local businesses and other organisations would be important during the development and implementation of the legislation.

“Government ‘plastic busters’ will provide information and support for business during the transition,” he said.

Minister for Disability Suzanne Orr said the government would work with disability representatives on the implementation of the ban to ensure that people with disability still had access to plastic straws if they needed 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,” Ms Orr said.

Mr 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 expected 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 and will be made available at

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42 Responses to First plastics bans next year as part of phase-out
Jiji Blossoms Jiji Blossoms 3:40 pm 18 Dec 19

absolutely right

geetee geetee 5:52 pm 17 Dec 19

The Federal Government – in association with state & territory governments – needs to invest in recycling facilities around the country. And provide incentives to companies that could manufacture products using these recycled materials. Surely that would be a great employment boost all around the country – including in regional areas.

Alex Elliott Alex Elliott 12:55 pm 17 Dec 19

Get rid of plastic bags too. They're one of the worst things polluting the environment and oceans and not recyclable.

    Damien Cook Damien Cook 5:37 pm 18 Dec 19

    Just eat the dog poo your reckon.

    Alex Elliott Alex Elliott 8:11 pm 18 Dec 19

    Damien Cook Very funny. :) There's more environmentally friendly materials available which can be used to make bags like plastic.

Alexandra Hughes Alexandra Hughes 5:31 am 17 Dec 19

Thevplastic in the oceans primarily come from other countries. Will be interesting to see what all the food vendors have to say.

Joanna K Heathen Joanna K Heathen 12:22 am 17 Dec 19

Setting up state-of-the-art recycling facilities locally and reusing the plastics would be a sensible start.

Alana Innes Alana Innes 10:16 pm 16 Dec 19

Let’s hope that the ACT Gov. starts with all its own facilities

Michael Uttley Michael Uttley 9:57 pm 16 Dec 19

What will a substitute for straws be?

    Jennifer Crawford Jennifer Crawford 10:56 pm 16 Dec 19

    Michael Uttley many places are already using paper straws.

    Carrie Gracie Carrie Gracie 11:11 pm 16 Dec 19

    Michael Uttley BYO silicone or metal straws.

    Donna Wilson Donna Wilson 12:01 am 17 Dec 19

    A mouth. Incredibly good for swallowing!

    Steven Morgan Steven Morgan 1:48 am 17 Dec 19

    There are also bio degradable straws you can buy that still feel like a normal straw

    Michael Uttley Michael Uttley 8:08 am 17 Dec 19

    I guess may concern was for people with allergies. Eg gluten

    Damaris Wilson Damaris Wilson 11:25 am 18 Dec 19

    Michael Uttley remember paper straws? And do you really need them anyway?

    Michael Uttley Michael Uttley 11:27 am 18 Dec 19

    With young children learning to drink yes.

    Chris Hudson Chris Hudson 3:37 pm 19 Dec 19

    Teach them to drink out of a cup from the start. Like toilet training they’ll make a mess the first few times but then they get better at it.

Benjamin Rose Benjamin Rose 9:36 pm 16 Dec 19

It wouldn't be an issue if people actually disposed of plastic properly in the first place. Human behaviour harms the environment - not the usage of plastic.

Donna Wilson Donna Wilson 8:24 pm 16 Dec 19

Brilliant initiative!

Andrea Lloyd Andrea Lloyd 7:50 pm 16 Dec 19

What are takeaway restaurants supposed to use as replacements? 🙄

    Jilly Beans Jilly Beans 8:11 pm 16 Dec 19

    Andrea Lloyd guessing it’s paper bags and cardboard boxes, eg like wok it up use (only without the metal handles would be better)

    Carrie Gracie Carrie Gracie 11:14 pm 16 Dec 19

    Andrea Lloyd same thing they used before plastic - cardboard/paper. It would be great if we could provide our own containers but I think that might create a food poisoning issue if people don’t clean their containers properly.

    Jim Jim Jim Jim 11:55 pm 16 Dec 19

    Andrea Lloyd their souls...because it’s already tough enough for small businesses in this town with all the over regulation they suffer.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:13 pm 16 Dec 19

“Legislation proposed for 2021 will ban plastic fruit and vegetable barrier bags”

People who eat out a lot will feel good about this (because it won’t be much of a problem for them). It will also have a nostalgic appeal for back-to-the-future progressives (particularly those with relatively leisurely lifestyles) who will see it as a selective return (they’ll like it on their imported smartphones) to the halcyon days of string bags, two-wheeled shopping trolleys, corner shops and (but this would never be acknowledged) stay at home mums who had the chance to shop several times a week.

The majority won’t like it, which is why it won’t happen until after the next Territory election – and why no other jurisdiction is doing it.

Michael Awwad Michael Awwad 5:55 pm 16 Dec 19

I hope this effort is not too late. There is so much plastic in the oceans and in our food!

Robert Harrop Robert Harrop 4:48 pm 16 Dec 19

I think you should bring this to an election before implementing , the people should have a choice.

Angela Thomas Angela Thomas 4:33 pm 16 Dec 19

As long as they don't replace forks and spoons with those dreadful wood things - can't get them near my mouth, tactile sensitivity is a nuisance!

    Shannon Keith Shannon Keith 5:19 pm 16 Dec 19

    Put a a metal cutlery set in your bag and then you won’t have any problems.

Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 4:02 pm 16 Dec 19

I’m surprised that people confuse plastic pollution with global warming. I guess there is a need for some education

Kim Riding Kim Riding 3:45 pm 16 Dec 19

Aldi will be in for a big surprise. Wish the wrapping of fruit and veg was first up.

    Kim J Uriarau Kim J Uriarau 4:20 pm 16 Dec 19

    Kim Riding Aldi are on track for all packaging to be compostable (I think) by 2023

    Andrea Lloyd Andrea Lloyd 7:55 pm 16 Dec 19

    Kim Riding why Aldi specifically? What about Woolies, Coles, IGA, Superbarn etc?

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 9:42 pm 17 Dec 19

    Kim Riding Woolies and Coles will be too. They're all as bad as each other.

William Warner William Warner 3:33 pm 16 Dec 19

How about the multicultural festival hope that gets a look at

Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 3:21 pm 16 Dec 19

There is no such thing as single use plastics, all plastic can be recycled, there is an issue in ensuring that the plastics don’t leave the recycling cycle. It’s all about education, not outright bans

    Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 4:01 pm 16 Dec 19

    Marc Edwards as there are always going to be lazy people and recycling has an environmental cost, I think that reducing the volume of plastic is positive. Marketing and convenience created the plastic pollution mess. Let’s do something positive to fix it. We survived for millions of years without it.

    Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 6:21 pm 16 Dec 19

    Reusable products are even better than ones that can be recycled.

    Raeline George Raeline George 7:30 pm 16 Dec 19

    Marc Edwards why create something that we don't need... let's use reusable. No matter how plastic is reused it still only breaks down into micro plastics

    Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 8:36 pm 16 Dec 19

    Raeline George the cups there proposing to use are made of plastics

Maya123 Maya123 2:39 pm 16 Dec 19

Wonderful; about time.

Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 10:51 am 16 Dec 19

I think we will all be ok and will survive.

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