On November 16 2021, the NSW Government announced it was introducing bans on single use plastics from mid 2022, aiming to reduce the 130kg of plastic that the average Australian currently uses per year. Less than 12% of this is recycled, and 130,000 tonnes of plastic is currently ending up in Australian waterways each year.
Lightweight plastic bags will be prohibited from July 1, 2022 and will be followed by other items including plastic straws, cutlery, stirrers, cotton buds, plates and bowls being prohibited on November 1, 2022.
This plastic bag ban brings NSW in line with the commitments of the rest of the states and territories across Australia, albeit 13 years after South Australia by the time the ban comes into effect.
Following South Australia in 2009, the Northern Territory and Australian Capital territory both implemented single use plastic bag bans in 2011, followed by Tasmania in 2013, Queensland and Western Australia in 2018, Victoria in 2019.
The diagram below from the Australian Marine Conservation Society shows the current single-use plastics bans across the states and territories of Australia, as well as those that have been proposed to come into effect in the coming years.
Image source: Australian Marine Conservation Society
NSW’s delayed action on banning single use plastic bags has put them in a position to change at groundbreaking speed in order to catch up with the other states and territories by the end of 2022. This growing momentum in NSW’s actions to address the single-use plastic waste crisis is promising and reflects a significant shift towards more responsible resource use and recovery behaviours in the state.
This is a great step forward in the transition to a circular economy, a shift which has been estimated to be worth $2 trillion.
These bans come into place under the new Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021, which delivers on the commitment the NSW government has made to ban problematic plastics and address the problem of plastic waste.
This legislation is part of the NSW Plastics Action Plan, which Treasurer and Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean says the NSW Government has committed to spend $356 million in delivering over the next five years.
“The single-use items we are phasing out will stop an estimated 2.7billion items of plastic litter from ending up in our environment and waterways over the next 20 years,” Minister Kean said.
Exemptions from the ban will apply to people who rely on single-use plastics due to disability or health needs.