As each state and territory is taking a different approach to phasing out of lightweight plastic bags and single-use plastics, now is a good time to review the current legislative requirements across Australia. Businesses need to prepare early, which is why Upac now offers a range of 100% recyclable plastic bags and environmentally friendly packaging options.
· Re-usable plastic bags are acceptable. All plastic carry/singlet style bags need to be made re-usable by being produced 36um or thicker.
· All bags thicker than 35um can be classified as being re-usable with consideration to the initial use.
· The plastic bag ban does not apply to perishable goods or products sealed in the bag prior to sale.
· DURAPLAS bags are 100% recyclable in locally available RedCycle soft plastic bins or via Recycle Smart.
Plastic bags thicker than 35 microns continued to be accepted in most states. The current exceptions for plastic bags to be sold as barrier bags is set to be lifted towards the end of 2022 in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.
You can trust that DURAPLAS bags are 100% recyclable and free of oxo-degradable additives and will be suitable for use in the months and years ahead.
A number of large national retail groups have already pre-emptively banned any plastic products containing oxo-degradable additives ahead of upcoming legislative changes.
The Northern Territory is working towards banning single-use plastics by 2025. The NT Circular Economy Strategy proposes to ban plastic bags, plastic straws and stirrers, plastic cutlery, plastic bowls and plates, expanded polystyrene (EPS), consumer food containers, microbeads in personal health care products, EPS consumer goods packaging, and helium balloons. This could include heavyweight plastic bags.
Lightweight plastic bags were banned from 1 September 2011. The ban includes all lightweight, grocery store style bags, and plastic bags marketed as ‘degradable’.
The following bags were not banned: green bags, biodegradable or compostable bags, heavy retail bags, paper bags, barrier bags for fruit and vegetables.
Only biodegradable (compostable) bags that comply with Australian Standard AS4736-2006 are permitted.
The use of single-use plastic products from all events held on Council land including markets was banned in 2019. This includes coffee cups, takeaway containers etc.
Tasmania banned lightweight plastic bags on 1 November 2013, via the ‘Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Act 2013’. The ban prohibits all lightweight plastic bags (less than 35 microns) .
Hobart became the first city in Australia to ban single-use plastic takeaway food packaging on the 1st July 2021, as part of a wider move to become free of single-use plastics.
New South Wales:
The Plastics and Circular Economy Act 2021 commenced a phase out of single-use plastics from June 2022.
The state established a set of design standards aimed at reducing plastic waste. The first design standard includes the phasing out of microbeads in cosmetic and personal care items from 1 November 2022.
The legislation also prohibits the supply of lightweight plastic bags from 1 June 2022. The supply of other items will be prohibited from 1 November 2022. These items include single-use plastic straws, cutlery, stirrers, cotton buds, plates and bowls, and expanded polystyrene food service items.
Lightweight plastic bags have been banned in Victoria since 1 November 2019.
The ban applies to all lightweight plastic shopping bags under 35 microns. This includes degradable, biodegradable and compostable bags.
Single-use plastic drinking straws, cutlery, plates, drink-stirrers, expanded polystyrene food and drink containers, and cotton bud sticks will be banned in Victoria from 1 February 2023. These single use items are already banned within government departments and agencies across the Victorian public service.
The Queensland Government banned single-use lightweight plastic bags less than 35 microns in thickness on 1 July 2018. This includes compostable, degradable and biodegradable bags.
Some exemptions apply, including garbage bin liner bags and barrier bags for unpackaged perishable food such as fruit, vegetables, meat and fish.
Single-use plastic straws, stirrers, plates, bowls, cutlery, expanded polystyrene (EPS) takeaway food containers and cups were banned in Queensland from 1 September 2021.
Exemptions were put in place for a range of healthcare facilities -including aged care, medical clinics, dental clinics and disability support facilities.
The state became the first in Australia to ban single-use plastic bags in 2009.
On September 9 2020, the South Australian Parliament passed the Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Act 2020. This legislation banned the sale, supply and distribution of certain single-use plastic products. From 1st March 2022 the Act was amended to include expanded polystyrene cups, bowls, plates and EPS takeaway containers. Each of these items are now banned from sale, supply or distribution in South Australia. Oxo-degradable plastic products are also be prohibited from production, manufacture, supply and sale in South Australia.
An exemption previously permitted single use spoons to be used in some facilities (such as medical) has now been removed.
Western Australia has implemented a state-wide ban on all plastic shopping bags, including plastic-laminated paper bags. Additional plastic items, such as straws, cutlery and food ware, will also be banned from 1 July 2022.
The states plan to ban single-use plastic items is a two-stage approach. Stage 1 (short-term actions) regulations came into effect on 1 January 2022, with Stage 2 (medium-term actions) regulations coming into effect on 1 January 2023.
Stage 1 regulations to ban single-use or disposable plastic items started on 1 January 2022 and included plates, bowls, cutlery, drink stirrers, straws, cups (1 October 2022), thick plastic bags, expanded polystyrene (EPS) takeaway food containers and helium balloon releases. Exemptions are only provided for compostable (certified biodegradable) bowls, food containers and cups.
The ban on ‘thick’ plastic bags is in addition to the existing lightweight plastic bag ban, which focused on plastic bags less than 35 microns or less. Currently, all plastic bags with handles are banned (with exemptions for barrier bags and other limited bags).
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT Government introduced a state-wide ban on lightweight plastic bags less than 35 microns thick excluding biodegradable bags in 2011.
From 1 July 2021, the Plastic Reduction Act 2021 banned the sale, supply and distribution of: plastic cutlery, plastic drink stirrers, and EPS takeaway containers.
From 1 July 2022, an additional ban is proposed on the following items: plastic straws (with exemptions for those who need them), single-use plastic fruit and vegetable “barrier bags”
cotton buds with plastic sticks, all oxo-degradable plastic products such as degradable plastic bags and degradable plastic tarps.
The bans on single-use plastic bags throughout Australia generally apply to lightweight bags 35 microns or less in thickness. The degree of variability in plastic bags suggests that sourcing bags greater than about 40 microns would help reduce the chance that no part of the bag is under the 35 micron limit.
However, there are various exceptions to these bans, including for medical/healthcare purposes, for members of the community requiring plastic straws (such as for a disability ), bin liners, bags to contain medical items, and bags that are integral to the packaging in which goods are sealed prior to sale and biodegradable bags. Please consult individual state and territory legislation.
Oxo-Degradable Plastics Ban:
Some manufacturers combine oxo-degradable additives with traditional plastics to boost the ‘oxo-degradability’ of plastic bags. However, they are harmful as they cause the plastics to break down into microplastics/smaller fragments which are detrimental to the environment.
Oxo-degradable bags may sound like they are compostable but they do not entirely decompose – and do not meet internationally recognised standards for compostability and biodegradability.
South Australia has banned the manufacture, production, supply and distribution of oxo-degradable plastic products – and Victoria, Western Australia and the ACT are also proposing similar bans.
The state and territory wide bans are gradually expanded from single-use plastic bags to include different types of single-use plastics. The types of single-use plastics bags that are banned has also expanded. Additional bans have been proposed in WA and ACT that would also include barrier/produce bags.
Transitioning early to ‘greener’ packaging is essential to ensuring legal compliance and business survival. Speak to Upac today to ensure your plastic bags are compliant for your state or territory. For more information, please consult your local environmental protection authority or council.