The ACT Government yesterday introduced legislation to commence the ban on single-use plastics, which will come into effect from July 2021.
The first tranche of single-use plastics to be banned include cutlery, drink stirrers and expanded polystyrene takeaway food and beverage containers.
“The objective of this legislation is to reduce Canberrans’ use of plastic and reduce the impact that plastic has on our environment and our waste management and resource recovery systems,” City Services Minister Chris Steel said.
Steel explained that single-use plastic products cannot be economically recycled, and as such end up in the natural environment or landfill.
“This Bill sends a strong signal to the community that we need to move away from single-use plastic and to build a circular economy,” he said.
“Single-use plastics play no role in strengthening our circular economy and ultimately create an unfair competitive advantage for businesses who choose to cut costs by purchasing unsustainable plastic materials.”
As well as the initial banning of priority products which the ACT Government outlined in its Phasing out Single-use Plastics Policy, the legislation will enable additional plastic products to be banned through regulation in the future.
“In 2022 we will expand the phase out to items such as straws, barrier bags for fruit and vegetables, as well as all products made from oxo-degradable plastic,” Steel said.
“However, we will provide exemptions so that people with a disability who need to use straws will still be able to access and use them.”
Items such as plastic-lined single-use coffee cups and lids, single-use plastic dinnerware, boutique or heavyweight plastic bags, and cotton ear buds with plastic sticks are currently under consideration by the ACT Government for future phase outs from 2023 onwards.
According to Steel, plastic water bottles will be exempt from future bans as they can be recycled through the territory’s container deposit scheme.
He added that the legislation will make the ACT the first government in Australia to declare public events single-use plastic-free.
“This means single-use plastics could be banned at both government and non-government events, including a wider range of plastic items than those prohibited for the general community,” Steel said.
Under the legislation, from July 2021, it will be an offence to supply a prohibited plastic product, with penalties of up to 50 penalty units and infringement notices available.
It will not be an offence to supply a prohibited plastic product in a non-business setting, for example, from a parent to a child at a picnic.
“The Government understands we need to allow business some time to prepare for the changes in the current economic environment, which is why the legislation will not come into effect until July 2021,” Steel said.
“I commend a number of businesses who have already made the transition away from these single-use plastic products, many of them decades ago.”
Steel added that all remaining businesses should immediately start to actively phase-out single-use plastic products that will be prohibited.
“They should do so by using up existing stocks of single-use plastic, and purchase and transition to alternative products if necessary,” he said.