SA Introduces Bill to Restrict Single-use and Other Plastic Products

Thursday 7 May 2020 @ 11.03 a.m. | Legal Research | Trade & Commerce

The Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Bill 2020 (the Bill) was introduced into the South Australian Parliament on 30 April 2020 by Mr D J Speirs MLA, the Minister for the Environment and Water (the Minister). In broad terms, the Bill prohibits the sale, supply and distribution of certain single-use plastic products and establishes a framework for banning other plastic products in the future. The Bill has been introduced to carry out the SA Government’s announcement in July 2019 that it would address the "impacts of single-use plastic products".

Legislation Background

The final Bill is the result of an extensive consultation process which included a draft version of the Bill released for public consultation between 14 December 2019 and 7 February 2020 and a "Single-Use Plastics Stakeholder Taskforce". The feedback is said by the Minister to have "helped inform the structure and scope of the current Bill". According to the Minister, the government considered the feedback on the draft legislation it received when finalising the Bill (see a summary of the submissions received and the government’s response). In his second reading speech the Minister states:

"It [the Bill] also fulfills the government's commitment to take action following the overwhelming sentiment expressed by the community in response to the Turning the tide on single-use plastic products discussion paper.

The message was clear – South Australians are concerned about the impacts of single-use and other plastics, and want the government to take action.

The Bill has been developed in accordance with my July 2019 announcement to develop legislation to address single use and other plastic products, and has undergone consultation with a stakeholder taskforce as well as publicly. A summary of submissions received and the government's response has been published on the Green Industries SA website."

Overview of the Legislation

The Bill prohibits the sale, supply or distribution of the following:

  •  single-use plastic drinking straws;
  •  single-use plastic cutlery;
  •  single-use plastic drink stirrers;
  •  expanded polystyrene cups;
  •  expanded polystyrene bowls;
  •  expanded polystyrene plates; and
  •  expanded polystyrene clam-shell containers.

Importantly the Bill also prohibits the manufacture, production, sale, supply or distribution of all products made from oxo-degradable plastic, namely, plastic products that have additives which accelerate their breakdown into smaller pieces, which will continue to exist in the environment for a long time, contributing to global micro-plastic pollution, especially in the ocean. According to the Minister in his second reading speech:

"These products are not compostable, create confusion amongst the community and should be prohibited."

Adding Products to the Banned List

In his second reading speech the Minister pointed out that the feedback from the community "suggested a number of other products for government intervention" saying:

"I have already identified some products for further consideration. These include takeaway coffee cups, plastic bags and other takeaway food service items. . . In accordance with my announcement last year, this Bill establishes a framework to consider additional products for inclusion in the legislation."

The framework proposed by the Minister is a process of public consultation to consider the reasons the product is being recommended for banning, the availability of alternative products, and the potential exemptions that may be required if the product is banned. The process is intended to ensure the impacts on businesses and the community are considered prior to the addition of other products to the banned list.


The Bill contains a provision implementing an exemption that will allow for the sale, supply and distribution of single-use plastic straws to those in the community who rely on them due to disability or medical need. According to the Minister, such an exemption will be implemented by regulations which are to be drafted following the passage of the Bill. Explanatory information has been prepared to help explain the proposed exemption regulations for single-use plastic straws and for other purposes.

The Bill does not prevent members of the community from purchasing single-use plastic drinking straws online, or from bringing their own straws to establishments. There are also other exemptions which include:

  • products that are attached to another product at the point of manufacture and packaging (for example, single-use plastic drinking straws attached to fruit boxes); or
  • products that are packaged with food contents for consumption (for example, expanded polystyrene noodle cups).

The Bill also proposes the ability to exempt a product, or product of a class; or business, or business of a class, from the provisions of the proposed legislation should it be required.

Timing for Legislation Becoming Operative

The legislation when passed is to come into operation by proclamation. Once the legislation is commenced single-use plastic drinking straws, cutlery, and drink stirrers will be prohibited from sale, supply or distribution. Then following a transitional period of 12 months, expanded polystyrene cups, bowls, plates and clam-shell containers, and oxo-degradable plastic products will also be prohibited. In his second reading speech the Minister states regarding the timing and transition to products being banned:

"I have determined that six months from the date of royal assent is sufficient for businesses to transition to alternative products for the initial prohibited products. This provides 18 months for businesses to make transitional arrangements for the other prohibited products.  . . . However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, I will give consideration to commencing the legislation at a later date to be cognisant of businesses that are impacted by restrictions due to coronavirus."

National Leaders

Other governments around Australia (for example, Queensland) have also indicated they are looking to tackle the issues around single-use plastic products. National initiatives are also underway, including actions under the National Waste Policy and response strategies to support the implementation of export bans agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments.

According to the Minister in his second reading speech:

"[South Australia] is again the first mover on this waste management and resource recovery initiative, and I look forward to other jurisdictions following our lead... This Bill gives us [SA] the flexibility to add other plastic products in the future, and assist with harmonisation of approaches in other jurisdictions."


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