Single-use plastic phase-out starts in 2020

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PLASTIC cutlery, expanded polystyrene takeaway containers and plastic stirrers will be banned immediately in the phase-out of single‑use plastics in the ACT, which will begin next year.

After 12 months, plastic barrier bags for fruit and vegetables, oxodegradable plastic products, plastic straws (except for people who need them, such as those with disabilities) will also be banned.

Minister for Recycling and Waste Reduction Chris Steel says the ACT Government will introduce legislation to ban the sale and distribution of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic products early next year.

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

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

In the longer term, consideration will be given to phasing out other single-use plastic products including plastic-lined coffee cups and lids, single-use plastic dinnerware, heavyweight plastic bags and cotton earbuds.

“Products like expanded polystyrene foam containers are a relic of the past and will be banned immediately because they are not sustainable, and there are clear alternatives already available,” Minister Steel said.

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

“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.”

In relation to coffee cups, this is due to the current voluntary ‘swap and go’ coffee cup scheme being introduced in Canberra cafes this month. In relation to plastic plates, the Government is concerned about plastic dinnerware alternatives contaminating paper and cardboard waste streams following the COAG waste export ban.

The Government has recognised that collaboration with the community, local businesses and other organisations will be important during the development and implementation of the legislation.

“Government ‘plastic busters’ will provide information and support for business during the transition,” Minister Steel says.

Minister for Disability, Suzanne Orr said the Government will work with disability representatives on the implementation of the ban to ensure that people with disability still have access to plastic straws if they need 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,” Minister Orr says.

Minister Steel says 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 anticipated 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 will be made available at www.yoursay.act.gov.au/single-use-plastics

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