SA Govt considers ban on straws, coffee cups and cutlery

The South Australian Government is considering banning single-use plastic products which include straws, takeaway coffee cups and cutlery.

Along with a review into the more than 40-year-old Container Deposit Scheme, the government is seeking consultation on the ban of a number of single-use plastics with the release of a new discussion paper.

The Turning the tide on single-use plastic products discussion paper seeks feedback on whether the government should introduce measures to tackle a range of single-use items.

The paper asks whether government intervention if required for these items and in what form it could take.

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Among considerations in the paper are also whether the existing ban on single-use plastic bags should extend to thicker shopping bags, raising the question as to whether they should be made of compostable material. It asks what the impact would be of manufactures or importers.

According to the paper, plastic product has surged over the past 50 years, from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonne in 2014. It is expected to double again over the next 20 years.

The report also cites action on plastic in states such as France, Italy, which has banned plastic cotton buds. France has also banned plastic cups and plates and the UK intends to ban straws, with Brussels and Ireland and Portugal considering similar measures.

According to the paper, estimates suggest that South Australians could be using about 255,500,000 million straws per year.

Items excluded for the time being from the ban are microplastics/microbeads, non-plastic single-use disposable items, single-use plastic beverage containers and sanitary applications such as wet wipes.

Further work will be undertaken to evaluate the impact of a proposed ban on manufacturers or importers of single-use products. The paper cites an opportunity for these producers to redirect production to reusable and recyclable items.

“With a shift to reusable items, a single upfront purchase by the retailer will avoid future regular costs of purchasing the single use items, and thus may lead to a saving,” the paper says.

“There will be a cost to providing reusable items for consumption on site, but savings from not providing single-use items. The balance of the costs and savings will vary for different retailers and determine whether a switch away from single-use plastics can ‘pay for itself’ over time.”

Environment Minister David Speirs said South Australia is a national leader in recycling and resource recovery and it is important to have a discussion about single-use plastics and the Container Deposit Scheme.

“Increasing interest and action globally is calling for a halt to the impact of single-use plastics on the environment. In October 2018, the European Union announced its intention to ban a range of single-use plastic items.

“We can take more immediate local action on items that are designed and intended for disposal after only a single use, are prone to being littered, are unlikely to be recycled and for which more sustainable alternatives are available,” he said.

Consultation runs until 22 February 2019. Further information is available here.

Fines for Western Australia plastic bag ban in action

The WA State Government has implemented its state-wide plastic bag ban as of 1 January, dishing out fines of up to $5,000 for retailers.

The ban also incorporates biodegradable, degradable or compostable bags, as long as there are handles and a thickness of 35 microns or less.

Acting WA Environment Minister Simone McGurk said the ban is making significant environmental improvements, with reusable bags leading the change.

“Since July 1, 2018, we have stopped around 225 million lightweight plastic bags ending up in landfill–or worse still–in our oceans,” Minister McGurk said.

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The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation is partnering with the National Retail Association to assist in educating both the public and retailers on how the ban will work.

Small businesses were given six months to prepare for the change, however that grace period ended with the new year.

“Be prepared–always have your reusable bangs on hand… whether you’re picking up milk from the deli, bread from the bakery or takeaway food from your favourite restaurant,” Minister McGurk said.

Penalties extend to plastic bag suppliers and manufacturers who will face similar fines to retailers if found to be misleading clients about their products.

The National Retail Association will follow-up on all complaints submitted to their website; where retailers and the public are encouraged to report those supplying lightweight plastic bags.

Reusable bag campaign launches ahead of VIC plastic bag ban

The Victorian Government has launched a campaign to encourage the use of reusable shopping bags ahead of the state’s 2019 ban on lightweight, single-use plastic bags.

The Better Bag Habits campaign urges Victorians to remember their bag, wallet, keys and phone when leaving the house. The campaign will run on social media and radio.

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Some tips the campaign will encourage will be to store reusable bags in the car, at home, work to ensure customers are always ready to shop. It also encourages the use of foldable bags that can easily fit into a pocket, handbag or backpack.

Research commissioned by Sustainability Victoria found around three quarters of Victorians already carry reusable bags when food shopping.

Younger Victorians and those on higher incomes have been the slowest to say no to single-use bags, particularly when shopping for non-food items.

The ban on single-use plastic bags will come apply to shopping bags less than 35 microns tick after community consultation found a 96 per cent of the 8000 submissions were for the ban.

The state government is also working with other states and territories to phase out thick plastic bags to further reduce plastic pollution.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said Victorians are already saying no to plastic bags, but this campaign will encourage it to become a habit.

“We’re stopping plastic pollution and ensuring Victorians are ready to live without single-use, lightweight plastic bags.”

No more plastic bags from Woolworths

Supermarket giant Woolworths has announced its supermarkets will no longer provide shoppers with single-use plastic bags from 20 June 2018.

The move also effects its BWS, Metro and Woolworths Petrol stores, where group wide more than 3.2 billion plastic bags are handed out each year.

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Woolworths Group stated last year that it would end the use of plastic bags by the end of June 2018 in states where there had not been a ban implemented yet.

Woolworths Group Chief Executive Officer Brad Banducci said the company feels strongly that this is the right thing to do.

“Our teams have been working hard behind the scenes to accelerate the rollout of this plan so we can start making a positive impact on the environment as quickly as possible,” Mr Banducci said.

“We know this is a big change for our customers and store teams, and we need to do all we can to make the transition as seamless as possible for both.

“To this end, we have a dozen supermarkets across Australia going single-use plastic bag free from today. We’ll closely monitor feedback from customers in these stores and apply any lessons we learn to our national rollout on 20 June.”

The 12 Woolworths stores phasing out plastic bags from today are:

  • NSW – Woolworths Marayong, Greenway Village, Dural, Mullumbimby
  • VIC – Woolworths Wyndham Vale, Taylors Lakes, Toorak
  • QLD – Woolworths Mossman, Noosa Civic
  • WA – Woolworths Singleton, South Fremantle, Cottesloe

Planet Ark Chief Executive Officer Paul Klymenko said this is a welcome move by Woolworths that will have a positive effect on the environment.

“Single-use plastic bags have become a huge problem for Australia’s oceans and waterways where they cause significant harm to turtles, whales and fish. They also don’t breakdown in landfill and require significant resources to manufacture in the first place,” Mr Klymenko said.

“Experiences in countries like the UK and Ireland have shown the introduction of small charges on plastic bags can end up reducing plastic bag usage by up to 85 percent as shoppers embrace reusable alternatives, and we have every confidence this can happen in Australia too,” he said.

Boomerang Alliance Director Jeff Angel said the community wants action on the alarming growth of plastic pollution.

“It is gratifying to see retailers like Woolworths moving on plastic bags to help save our oceans and wildlife, with international scientific consensus putting bags in the top three dangers of ingestion and entanglement of marine life,” Mr Angel said.

“We encourage shoppers to adopt reusable bags. Of course, there’s much more to do in stores to reduce our plastic footprint and we look forward to working with consumers, retailers and government to push the agenda along,” he said.

Woolworths has also said it aims to offer flexible plastic recycling options in all supermarkets via the REDcycle program. REDcycle allows customers to return soft plastic packaging used for produce, frozen food, confectionary packets and shopping bags that are then sent to recycling partners. The material collected are then turned into products like outdoor furniture.