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 www.yoursay.act.gov.au/single-use-plastics.