ACT Government Releases Discussion Paper On Phasing Out Single Use Plastics

Tuesday 30 April 2019 @ 11.34 a.m. | Legal Research

On 16 April 2019, the ACT Government released a discussion paper in regards to phasing out single-use plastics. The Government acknowledges that plastic is used in a wide range of applications and has an important role in practicality of day to day life. This includes keeping food and medical equipment sanitary. However, the use of plastic comes with its own set of problems. The Government estimates that by 2050 there will be more plastic (by weight) in the oceans than fish due to rising plastic consumption.

Minister for Community Services and Facilities Chris Steel acknowledged that the ban will likely have impacts on businesses, institutions and residents. He stated in the media release:

“We know from plastic straw bans from other parts of the world that we need to consider the social equity impact on people with a disability and I welcome their contribution on how we can responsibly manage our environment while taking these issues into account.”

Discussion Paper

The Discussion Paper focuses on single-use plastic consumer products and intends to engage with businesses and the wider community about the continued problematic use of such items. Single-use plastics covers items that are only intended to be used once before it is discarded, the most common form being packaging. Its uses are therefore limited, however, the waste that it creates litters waterways, parks and landscapes before then ending in landfill where it takes years to break down.

The public is invited to comment on opportunities and ideas to phase out the items for more sustainable alternatives. The Government also requests submissions to highlight important considerations that will impact decision making, including potential impacts on manufacturers, importers and businesses that supply these items and also consumer impacts, such as social equity concerns and practicalities.

The Government, however, acknowledges that some single-use plastics will always be necessary; such items include plastics that ensure sterility of medical equipment. Therefore, the Discussion Paper focuses on plastics that are seen to be unnecessary, problematic or avoidable, such as:

  • Plastic straws and stirrers
  • Plastic cutlery, including disposable plates and cups
  • Disposable plastic-lined coffee cups and lids
  • Foam food containers and cups
  • Light-weight fruit and vegetable bags

The Discussion Paper also addresses items that are to be excluded from Government action for now, including:

  • Plastic beverage containers
  • Sanitary items
  • Nappies and incontinence products
  • Reusable plastic bags (above a certain thickness)
  • Health related sterile items (such as syringes)

Some of the questions posed in the Discussion Paper:

“Question 2:

What regulatory or other approaches do you support to address consumer single-use plastic in the ACT? When do you think action is needed, and why?

Question 3:

If you are an ACT based manufacturer, importer or retailer of consumer single-use plastic products, what cost and other impacts do you think need to be considered as part of this discussion?

Question 6:

What alternatives to single-use plastics have you used and are they practical?

Question 7:

What members of our community may be impacted by phasing out single-use plastics and how? What are the solutions?”

The Government aims to enact changes through firstly non-regulatory approaches, with engagement with various industry, business and environment groups to influence national change. Then through government partnerships and innovative approaches, the Government seeks to lead by example in reducing, reusing and recycling these items. Finally the ACT Government will introduce policy and legislation to phase out the use of other types of single-use plastics.

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