ACT to begin formal phase out of single-use plastics

The exposure draft of the Plastic Reduction Bill 2020 has been tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly, as the territory government formally begins implementing the phase out of certain single-use plastics.

The phase out will begin from July 2021, banning the sale and supply of single-use plastic cutlery, stirrers and polystyrene food and beverage containers such as plates, cups, bowls and ‘clamshell’ takeaway containers.

Recycling and Waste Reduction Minister Chris Steel said the ACT Government recognises that immediately phasing out single-use plastics could present difficulties to businesses that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This transition period recognises that affected sectors like the events and hospitality industries are currently in hibernation during the pandemic or are just trying to survive, and that they may need to use up any existing stock that they have,” Steel said.

“The release of the exposure Bill is a clear signal that the transition to better alternatives begins now, and we will continue to work with stakeholders on the ACT Plastic Reduction Taskforce as we implement the phase out, with the final Bill introduced before the end of the year.”

According to the Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics Updated Next Steps Policy, the ACT Government undertook a cost-benefit analysis of the social, economic and environmental impacts of the first tranche phase out.

“The cost-benefit analysis showed us that there are already alternatives to single-use plastic stirrers and polystyrene containers that are both more cost effective and environmentally friendly,” the policy reads.

“Our cost-benefit analysis also showed that the best option to reduce the impacts of single-use plastic and alternatives is to avoid these altogether wherever possible.”

Additionally, the policy highlights that the ACT Government is the first Australian government to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of single-use plastic phase outs.

“The ACT is leading the way, with learnings from the ACT now being used in other jurisdictions,” the policy reads.

“This ensures that the methodologies used to quantify the impact of respective single-use plastic phase outs are, wherever possible, harmonised across Australian jurisdictions.”

Steel said the Bill would also see the ACT become the first jurisdiction to declare public events single-use plastic free, with a focus on designated large-scale events, in close consultation with event holders.

Plastic‑free events could include Floriade and the National Multicultural Festival, as well as privately run major sporting matches and festivals.

“Community concern about avoidable plastic waste in landfill and littering our territory is high, with public consultation in 2019 showing strong support for a ban on certain single-use plastic products,” Steel said.

He added that in 2022, the ACT will seek to expand the phase out to include items such as plastic fruit and vegetable barrier bags and oxo-degradable plastic products, which are conventional plastics that include additives to accelerate the fragmentation of the material.

“Plastic straws will also be phased-out in 2022, however we will continue to work with key stakeholders in the health and disability communities to implement the ban and ensure they remain available to those who need them,” Steel said.

“This is just the start. Producers and suppliers of single-use plastic products, that are not designed to be economically recycled here in the ACT, are on notice.

“This Bill sets out a framework to phase out other problematic and unnecessary plastic products in the future with appropriate consultation.”

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