Australia

ACT looks to ban range of single-use plastics

An ACT minister is proposing action on single-use plastics. Source: Getty Images

An ACT minister is putting forward a proposal to ban a range of single-use plastics, as the territory tries to step up its efforts to reduce landfill.

Eight years ago, the ACT banned single-use plastic shopping bags – and now the territory is taking aim at a range of other single-use plastics.

City Services Minister Chris Steel told SBS News plastic bags are just a small part of the problem and that it is time to consider further action.

"We're keen to consult with the community, business, and industry around phasing out some of those problematic products where there are clear alternatives," Mr Steel said.

"There are still businesses selling takeaway containers, Styrofoam cups...these things are relics of the 80s."

The plastic bag ban in the ACT has been regarded as a success. According to figures from the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate, it has reduced the volume of plastic bag waste sent to landfill by around 30 per cent.

It has been reviewed twice, and was found to have broad community support.

But a ban on other single-use plastics – like cutlery, cups, and some plastic cosmetic applicators, such as cotton buds – may pose more challenges.

"These changes will require a lot of analysis, but it's clear the community is telling us, they don't understand why many of these products are still being used," Mr Steel said.

Single use plastics could be a thing of the past in the ACT.
Single use plastics could be a thing of the past in the ACT.
Getty

"Many cafes still use plastic-lined coffee cups. There are so many cardboard cups that don't have that plastic lining."

With such a wide range of products called into question, the number of stakeholders also increases – and Mr Steel understands it may be challenging to get businesses on side.

"We want to talk to businesses and find out what are the realistic timelines," Mr Steel said.

"A national approach would be ideal in terms of providing consistency for business and industry, but we won't wait for national action."

In January, South Australian Environment Minister David Speirs launched a discussion paper about the possibility of a state-wide ban on single-use plastics, focusing on the use of plastic cups and straws.

“We are the national leader when it comes to waste management… we’ve always been ahead of the pack,” Mr Speirs said at the time.

“It’s time to continue our leadership and help create a cleaner environment for our state.”

In October last year, the European Parliament voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastic products, including cotton buds, drink stirrers, straws, and cutlery.

The items on the banned list were chosen because there are alternative products made from degradable materials, such as cardboard.

Items with no mainstream suitable non-plastic alternative were also given reduction targets.

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