Single-Use Plastics

WHAT DOES THIS INCLUDE?

Plastic cutlery, cups, coffee cups and lids, plates, straws, beverage stirrers, and polystyrene containers.

ARE THESE ITEMS BANNED?

Most states and territories in Australia now have some form of legislation prohibiting the sale, supply, and distribution of certain types of single-use plastics. The Northern Territory and Tasmania do not yet have state-wide legislation banning these products, but some restrictions apply in the capital cities of Darwin and Hobart.

These bans often include items such as plastic cutlery, straws, beverage stirrers, and takeaway containers. Businesses and other organisations operating in areas with bans in place must comply by ceasing use of these items or they could be fined. Each state and territory has its own timeframe for phasing out these products.

Leftover plastic stock?
Once a ban comes into effect, your business can no longer use those items. To reduce leftover stock and waste, begin phasing out these products as soon as possible. For any item where the only alternative is disposal, find a recycling service in your area by searching our free directory.

Click on your state or territory to visit your state government's website for details about prohibited items, timelines, and suggestions for alternatives.

It's important to do your research to make sure you're making the best decision for your business or workplace when considering alternatives to single-use plastics. What may work well for one organisation, might not be appropriate for another.

Consider reducing the consumption of single-use items and whether switching to reusables is right for your business. The NSW Government has developed a helpful guide for businesses with suggestions for alternatives.

Click on the circle below for more information about these alternatives.

Are compostables right for me?

Compostable packaging is made of raw materials like paper, wood, bamboo or plant-based materials like corn that will decompose under specific conditions so it can be turned into compost to fertilise plants and vegetation.

It's important to consider your organisation's unique circumstances before deciding to use compostable products. Why? Some states are implementing bans on certain compostable plastic items, and you must have access to an appropriate composting facility that accepts certified compostables. Compostable products that end up in landfill are not necessarily better for the environment as they produce the potent greenhouse gas methane when they decompose. Most will not be recyclable either.

If you work in the food service industry and use takeaway packaging, compostable products may be a good option for you if recycling is not an option due to food contamination. However, access to industrial composting services is needed for you and/or your customers.

Ask yourself the following questions before switching to compostable products:

  • Do I or my customers have access to an industrial composting facility, or does my council have a Food Organics Garden Organics (FOGO) service that accepts these products?
  • Are the products 'home compostable'? If they are not, they will require an industrial facility to be composted (i.e., they will not fully break down in a home compost system).
  • Are the products certified compostable to the Australian standards (Industrially Compostable Certification AS4736-2006 or Home Compostable Certification AS5810-2010)?
  • If the packaging is made from paper, wood, or bamboo, have the materials been certified by responsible sources, e.g., Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC) or the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)?

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation provides a comprehensive decision making tool for compostable packaging in their Considerations for Compostable Plastic Packaging guide.

What does Biodegradable mean?

'Biodegradable' refers to a material's ability to decompose or break down by living organisms. There are no industry standards or certifications for the term. Products making this claim may degrade (as will most items over time), but without a specified timeframe, this term can be very misleading. A piece of plastic that is biodegradable could take hundreds of years to degrade, which is not a good environmental outcome.

Sometimes these products can contain additives that allow the plastics to break down faster into tiny fragments called 'microplastics', which do not completely decompose. Whether these products end up in landfill or they are littered, once they break down, the tiny fragments of plastics can potentially enter and negatively impact our natural ecosystems. In landfill they will also produce methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2. If they are collected for composting or recycling, biodegradable products that are not compostable will contaminate the organics and recycling streams.

Products claiming to be biodegradable should therefore be considered with caution. If you are unsure about a product, consider contacting the manufacturer for more information.

Oxo-degradable products should not be used

Oxo-degradable plastics contain additives that are supposed to help them degrade faster. Over time, these products will also break down into microplastics and survive in the environment indefinitely. These products are being phased out both internationally and locally.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Reduce and recycle plastics: Discover how your business can reduce, reuse and recycle plastics with the How to Reduce & Recycle Plastics at Work guide.

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