24 May 2022

Single-use plastics ban expands as government calls last sips on plastic straws

| Lottie Twyford
Join the conversation
Chris steel at the Fish Shack

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel at The Fish Shack in the city, which has moved away from using many single-use plastics. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

Plastic straws and cotton buds with plastic sticks will be added to an ever-growing list of banned plastic substances in the ACT from 1 July 2022.

From that date, the Territory will be the first Australian jurisdiction to get rid of plastic cotton buds entirely.

While fines of up to $8000 will apply to businesses that contravene the laws, the Territory Government has long favoured an education-first approach.

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said although the countdown is on for the majority of Canberrans and businesses to find alternatives, exemptions would be in place for people with a disability who needed to use plastic straws.

From 1 July, plastic straws will no longer be able to be purchased at supermarkets but a medical exemption will be in place so people who need them can buy them from pharmacies. Aged care and disability facilities will also be able to stock and supply the items.

Likewise, while it won’t be compulsory for hospitality businesses such as coffee shops and restaurants to stock plastic straws, those that do can supply individuals with one on request.

Nobody is required to show proof or give a reason for them needing a straw, Mr Steel confirmed, but businesses won’t be permitted to have them out on display.

READ ALSO Is Canberra capable of supporting an NBL team or has the window of opportunity passed?

“The difference for the community is that when you go to a bar and order a soft drink, you’re not going to get the default plastic straw that comes with it anymore,” Mr Steel said yesterday (23 May).

“That’s only going to be available for people who request it – but without showing proof of a disability or a medical exemption.”

The government sought to include single-use plastic fruit and vegetable bags in this tranche of banned products but Mr Steel said throughout the consultation process with business and the community, it had become evident there “weren’t great alternatives right at the moment”.

He said that would be delayed until the government had built a large-scale composting plant to manage the compostable versions of the barrier bags. A procurement process is underway to find a company to build that facility with the exact specifications to be determined further down the track.

The next target of the plastics ban will likely be heavy plastic bags and plastic takeaway containers.

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.

READ ALSO Meet the Canberra filmmaker taking his DeLorean back to the future by going electric

Mr Steel said the Territory Government – which has a target of diverting 90 per cent of waste from landfill by 2025 – would soon be undertaking an audit of the ACT’s garbage bins to identify which single-use plastic products remained in the garbage.

“We’re going to be looking at those products and working out, in conjunction with business and industry, which ones we can tackle next,” Mr Steel explained.

“We will determine which ones can be replaced by good, sustainable alternatives and which ones can be avoided altogether.”

The Minister said the legislation was ready and waiting to expand the single-use plastics ban further, but it was important that businesses were ready and able to make the switch.

He also rejected suggestions the ACT was moving too slowly to phase out single-use plastics but acknowledged the community was moving quicker than the Territory government on transitioning away from using them.

“Ninety per cent of Canberrans support prohibiting single-use plastic straws, but we still have a way to go to work with industry to get rid of some of these products and also to invest in alternatives,” Mr Steel said.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Capital Retro5:00 pm 25 May 22

Aren’t blades from wind turbines made from single use plastic? Let’s see if the Greens are game enough to ban them.

The terms single use, recyclable, and worth recycling are not mutually exclusive. Let’s see whether CR is game enough to understand this..

Have noticed in watching replays of Seinfield the takeaway Chinese meals are in a sort of cardboard container.
Might be a bit more helpful than banning cotton

I believe that recyclable containers (and other restaurant/cafe essentials) are quite prevalent in North America; mostly sourced from China according to a Canadian friend.
The importance of banning cotton buds is that they are not effectively recyclable (although technically so, like straws) and there are millions used and discarded, being single-use.

Haven’t used a straw (of any type) for at least 10 years. You don’t drink beer through a straw

”cotton buds with plastic sticks”
Someone has been very thorough.

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 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.

“…or am I being too pragmatic”
No, rest assured you are not being pragmatic.

The poor old cotton bud gets banned, yet every street is littered with discarded single-use face masks.

“The government sought to include single-use plastic fruit and vegetable bags in this tranche of banned products but Mr Steel said throughout the consultation process with business and the community, it had become evident there “weren’t great alternatives right at the moment”.”
That didn’t stop them pursuing the plastic straw ban even though there are no suitable alternatives … paper straws make the drink taste like soggy cardboard, and disintegrate in less time than you can finish a drink, but you can’t drink a thickshake without a straw…

Hi tim_c,
Cardboard straws are terrible; you need to drink or suck quickly before they disintegrate. A bloke might have to bring his own “metal” straw and pretend that there wasn’t any carbon produced in its mining and manufacturing.
I understand the negative issues with plastics and yes, straws are part of that problem, however, I don’t understand the ACT Government’s obsession with banning plastics when every street is littered with discarded single-use face masks, with their elastic type straps that birdlife can get caught around their necks etc.

The problem isn’t “plastic” straws or cotton buds, shopping bags etc, it’s their incorrect disposal.

It’s no different to cigarette butts. People discard them. Look at the ground around any bus stop. The Government has introduced fines for discarding butts, but no one ever gets fined.

They have removed garbage bins from bus stops, so people now leave their rubbish behind.

Just maybe the Government wouldn’t need to ban products if they enforced their laws, provided bins and emptied them and people were intelligent enough not to litter!

Yeah, I know. “Pigs fuelled up and ready to fly”.

So you’re suggesting that we give up on the idea of getting rid of plastic straws (3.5 billion a year used by Aussies according to Clean Up Australia) just because you’re unable to drink a thickshake without one?

Sorry environment… would really love to help you, but Tim C can’t go without his thickshake.

Aussies use 3.5 billion plastic straws per year. That’s about 135 plastic straws per person!

Funnily, as I’m writing this, I’m drinking a take-away drink. It’s in a waxed lined cardboard cup that wass manufactured in the USA. It has a recyclable PET 1, plastic lid with a flip-style drinking lip. Still plenty of carbon miles and plastic; just no straw.

Yep, that 135 per person isn’t that surprising… that’d be like 1/3 of the population drinking a McDonald’s or Boost Juice takeaway drink once a day (in reality, some would have more, most would have one less frequently).

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.