The New South Wales government says it will offer support to small businesses as part of its $356 million plan to phase out single-use plastic items, including lightweight bags, straws and stirrers.
The NSW government announced the five-year plan over the weekend, joining governments in a number of other states in banning single-use plastic items that do damage to the environment, including Western Australia, which is accelerating its efforts to do away with single-use plastics.
The plan will also involve green bins for good and organic waste being provided across NSW to reduce the amount of food waste that ends up in landfill.
Under the NSW government’s proposal, lightweight plastic bags would be phased out over a period of six months from the date legislation is passed, while plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery will be phased out over a 12-month period, along with cotton buds with plastic sticks, polystyrene food service items and personal care and cosmetic products that contain microbeads.
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A review of other single-use plastic items would be conducted after three years. This category includes plastic bowls, plates, cups and lids, heavyweight plastic shopping bags and non-compostable fruit stickers.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement her government wants NSW to play a leading role in “reducing waste, maximising recycling and protecting the environment”, but will ensure businesses and local councils have time to adjust and find alternative products to use.
In particular, the government said small businesses will receive assistance to transition to new products before the phaseouts come into effect, and additional funding will be provided to local councils.
There will also be exemptions for individuals who rely on single-use plastic items for disability or health needs, and a public education campaign to explain how to use the new methods for disposing food and organic waste.
The Australian Retailers Association welcomed the NSW government’s plan but said it will be important for the changes to be introduced in a way that minimises disruptions for retailers. In a statement, chief executive Paul Zahra said it is also critical that retailers have access to “cost-effective sustainable packaging alternatives” as plastic items are phased out.
The plan addresses important issues for retailers in NSW and the rest of the country, said Zahra.
“The announcement is also important because it moves us closer to national harmonisation on the phase-out of single-use plastics and positions NSW, the largest market for our members, as a leader in waste management and recycling,” he added.
“We believe that this will also support the efforts of other jurisdictions to move forward with their own phase-outs of single-use plastics.”
NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean said phasing out single-use items in NSW will stop an estimated 2.7 billion pieces of plastic litter from entering the environment and waterways over the next two decades.
“We can’t keep sending our scraps to languish in landfill when there are huge opportunities to turn our trash into treasure,” he said in a statement.
Kean said NSW will also prioritise using recycled materials in government procurement by adopting an ‘if not, why not’ approach to help grow new markets for sustainable products.
The NSW government said it will now consult on, and develop, legislation and regulations to put before Parliament over coming months.
More information about the NSW Plastics Action Plan is available here.