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Person holding single-use plastic cutlery picked up on a beach
Photograph: Brian Yurasits / Unsplash

A huge variety of single-use plastics are set to be banned in NSW within 18 months

By 2023, many of the plastics common in the food and beverage sector will be outlawed statewide

Maxim Boon
Written by
Maxim Boon

Plans to phase out the use of lightweight plastic bags in NSW by the start of 2022 have been common knowledge for more than a year now, but following a state government strategy released on June 13 and signed into law under the Plastics and Circular Economy Act 2021, has confirmed that many other forms of environmentally harmful single-use plastics are also set to be outlawed in NSW just 12 months later. Single-use plastics including straws, cutlery, polystyrene containers and stirrers, as well as other household products like cotton buds and toiletries containing plastic microbeads will be completely banned statewide by 2023. However, the new laws do not yet pertain to bin liners bags for produce and deli items such as those found in supermarkets, or bags used to contain medical waste or 'poop bags' for animal waste. 

The new law to reduce the state’s reliance on everyday single-use plastics is part of the $356 million NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy and the NSW Plastics Action Plan, which will introduce several plastic-reducing reforms over the next five years. Sectors that are not easily able to use viable, compostable alternatives, such as the aged care sector, will be exempt from the bans.

Under the initiatives, plastic bowls, plates, non-compostable fruit stickers and heavy-duty plastic shopping bags will be phased out of use in NSW by 2025, along with that most prolific of single-use offenders, the plastic coffee cup lid. As a nation of voracious coffee drinkers, Australia is one of the world’s worst producers of plastic waste from takeaway lids, with an estimated one billion going into landfills every year. By phasing all of these single-use plastics, it's hoped the plans with stop as many as 2.7 billion items of plastic litter from ending up in NSW’s environment and waterways over the next 20 years.

Encouraging as these environmental actions are, NSW is still well behind the curve compared to other Australian states. South Australia already has laws restricting the use of single-use plastics in effect, Queensland has plans to introduce single-use prohibitions from September this year, and Victoria is to follow suit by 2023. While states are coordinating their own plastic reduction efforts independently, there is a federal target to phase out almost all single-use plastics in retail and hospitality settings by 2025, including in major supermarket chains and fast-casual franchises like McDonald's. However, given Australia's poor international record on environmental action, brought into grim focus recently during the COP26 Conference on climate change, it is at least reassuring that local governments are not turning a blind eye to the climate crisis.

Want to live a more low-impact life now? Here are 10 ways you can be a greener Sydneysider.

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