31 May 2023

Plastics ban expands to plates, bowls and microbeads, and your shopping bags are next

| James Coleman
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Fekerte Tesfaye holding food

Owner of Fekerte’s Ethiopian in Acton, Fekerte Tesfaye, has already been serving meals in reusable and plastic-free alternatives. Photo: ACT Government.

Canberrans will have extra reason to reuse their thick plastic shopping bags from the beginning of next year as the ACT Government continues its mission to phase out single-use plastics.

The heavyweight and boutique plastic bags (greater than 35 microns in thickness) available at most supermarkets and retailers will be banned in the ACT from 1 January 2024.

In a matter of weeks, single-use plastic plates and bowls will also be banned.

Expanded polystyrene loose-fill packaging and trays and the plastic microbeads commonly used in rinse-off personal care and cleaning products will join the single-use plastics that can’t be supplied in the Territory from 1 July 2023.

Shopping bags

Woolworths’ reusable plastic shopping bags are now out of stock. Photo: Screenshot.

ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel described it as a “major win for the environment and our community”.

“There has been strong support for the shift away from single-use plastics and the transition to using more sustainable materials, which protect our local environment and reduce harmful waste going to landfill.”

It’s tranche three of the government’s single-use plastics ban, which since 2021 has come for straws, cutlery, polystyrene takeaway containers, cotton buds with plastic sticks, and plastic bags less than 35 microns in thickness.

It will also bring the ACT in line with Western Australia, the first place in Australia to ban heavyweight plastic bags. Queensland is set to ban heavyweight bags later this year and South Australia next year.

However, they’ll remain available over the border in Queanbeyan and Jerrabomberra, where the NSW Government stopped short in June 2022 when it banned lightweight plastic shopping bags.

But Woolworths has already replaced heavyweight plastic bags in its stores with paper bags, and Coles is following suit.

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Mr Steel said the new bans were advised by a 12-week consultation with the community and industry.

“Industry told us they need time to prepare for the ban, particularly in relation to banning additional plastic bags,” he said.

“The ACT Government has listened to this, and the ban on heavyweight and boutique plastic bags will not start for six months, and we have also put in place other appropriate exemptions for some other items.”

reusable bags sitting on top of lemons and limes

Coles trialled a ban of produce bags in its Canberra stores last year but decided to bring back compostable options. Photo: Martin Keep.

Other single-use plastics remain in the too-hard basket for now, mainly because “no suitable alternatives” are currently available.

“As a result, they have not been included in this ban but may be considered in the future as better substitutes are developed,” the Minister said.

These include plastic takeaway containers, plastic bowls with a lid, and moulded expanded polystyrene packaging used for the packaging and protection of electronics, white goods, furniture and other bulky items.

A permanent exemption applies for plastic bowls used in medical, scientific or forensic circumstances, as alternatives can compromise health and safety.

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The government said Canberrans have embraced action on single-use plastics, and some businesses are already working on post-plastic solutions.

Fekerte’s Ethiopian restaurant in Acton, for instance, is serving their takeaway customers in reusable, plastic-free alternatives.

“I’ve been using these types of containers for years and customers tell me they support us using them,” the restaurant’s owner, Fekerte Tesfaye, said.

“Like a lot of other businesses, I want to do my part for the environment.”

The ACT Government will also start consultation on expanding the container deposit scheme to include wine, spirit and cordial bottles, and some heavy plastics.

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Those individually plastic wrapped cucumbers must be exempt

Not a small misunderstanding, but a mind-boggling swiftly pulled over Australians. In one example she writes: the supermarkets were trying to buff up their green credentials by being involved in the program. But it turned out that the whole process was essentially a hoax: there were never any viable companies to take the used soft plastic and to recycle it. The piles and piles of discarded material have now been sent to landfill, which is where they should have gone in the first place.’ (copied)

Bob the impala12:41 pm 03 Jun 23

Who is “she”, Ray Zak, where did she write it, and what of it?

HiddenDragon6:28 pm 01 Jun 23

The Coles experiment with not supplying plastic produce bags in its Canberra stores was a fine example of virtue-signalling (and, probably, a touch of green-washed penny-pinching) running into reality.

The outcome was inevitable, but if it has helped to introduce a bit more practicality into the ACT government crusade on this subject, it will have served a useful purpose – which might be some consolation to Coles for the temporary hit to their produce sales in this town.

This entire thing is stupid. Rather then invest in systems to be able to recycle the falsely claimed to be “single use” plastic, they just ban it all instead.

They would rather punish people who do reuse things.

Just contemplating the rush to replace once-use plastic items with wood or bamboo and in some cases metal. Now consider, that Australia is importing, some 172 million once use RAT units and the US is importing around a billion of them. Victoria is importing around 122 million but am not sure how many the ACT is getting or the other States. This does not include other countries that are also importing once-use RAT items. Plastic face shields, needle holders, plastic bottles of hand sanitizer and other plastic PPE are many once-use items. Where is the method to dispose of all of this once-used plastic? Where are the environmental Greens and their concerns for all of this plastic flooding the world? Guarantee much of this will end up in landfill. One wonders how much plastic will be manufactured and discarded, or am I being too pragmatic? NSW and other jurisdictions are banning plastic straws and plastic garbage bags. I really don’t know what this will achieve given much of what exists throughout the world is made of some sort of plastic or by-product. Also, the number of plastic test kits used by Police for roadside drug and alcohol testing also ends up in landfill. My thoughts.

PPE from hospitals and medical clinics (including your local GP) gets incinerated in specialty medical incinerators.
Due to the risk of biological contaminants it’s illegal to dump commercial biological waste or waste contaminated with biological materials.
Although it’s likely the end result of that incineration ends up landfill (I’m not sure of what happens after incineration), the whole products themselves (gloves, protective gowns, masks, face shields, anything possibly contaminated with blood or bodily fluids, needles & all that can be associated with them, etc) do not, and it’s a very minimal output amount (ashes for lack of a better word) compared to the input amount (the products in their entirety).

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