More single-use plastics banned in NSW

by Sophie Berrill
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Following the ban of lightweight plastic bags in June, the New South Wales Government has rolled out further bans on single-use plastics in the state.

As of 1 November 2022, it is now illegal to supply single-use plastic cutlery, straws, stirrers, plates and bowls, cotton buds, expanded polystyrene (EPS) food containers, and products containing plastic microbeads.

Exemptions will apply to people who rely on certain plastic products for disability or health reasons, including plastic straws. 

The bans are part of a nationwide effort to phase out ‘problematic and unnecessary’ plastics by 2025, which is being rolled out in different stages and strategies across the states.

What is banned in NSW?

  • bags with handles that are 35 microns thick or less at any part of the bag and are partly or fully plastic
  • single-use plastic cutlery, stirrers, straws, plates and bowls (except where designed or intended to have a spill-proof lid)
  • EPS food service items (including EPS clamshells, cups, plates and bowls) 
  • single-use plastic cotton buds, and
  • certain rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads. 

The ban does not apply to:

  • ‘heavyweight’ reusable plastic bags greater than 35 microns
  • barrier bags that protect unpackaged food (e.g. fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat or fish)
  • bin liner bags
  • human or animal waste bags
  • produce bags
  • bags used for medical purposes
  • sealed product packaging bags
  • single-use plastic bowls designed or intended to have a spill proof lid, whether separate or attached
  • serving utensils or serving ware (e.g. tongs, platters)
  • pre-packaged items that are integrated into the packaging of a food or beverage product through a machine automated process (e.g., straw attached to a juice box, or bowl containing a frozen meal)
  • EPS trays used for raw produce (e.g. produce such as raw meat and seafood)
  • EPS containers used for business-to-business transport.
  • reusable cotton bud sticks with replaceable buds, and
  • cotton buds with paper, wood or bamboo sticks.

The regulator of the bans, the NSW Environmental Protection Authority, has granted an exemption for the supply of plastic single-use cotton buds and plastic single-use bowls for medical, scientific and forensic purposes in certain circumstances. 

There’s also a one-off, time bound exemption for plates and bowls that are made of paper or cardboard but have a plastic lining or coating, which expires on 31 October 2024.

Single-use plastic items and packaging make up 60 percent of all litter in NSW, according to the EPA. The single-use plastic bans are expected to prevent almost 2.7 billion items of plastic litter from entering the environment in the state over the next 20 years.

The NRA has launched a free hotline that offers businesses and community organisations advice on the single-use plastic bans. For more information call 1800 844 946 or visit the website.

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