Australian federal, state and territory leaders agreed to the most comprehensive plan yet to phase out single-use plastics by 2025 during April 15’s national meeting of environment ministers, with harmonised commitments across lightweight plastics bags, straws, utensils and microbeads.
Different bans by different states will be replaced by the National Waste Policy Action Plan, which gives certainty about the phase-out of lightweight plastic bags, plastic misleadingly marketed as degradable, plastic straws, plastic utensils and stirrers, polystyrene containers, polystyrene consumer goods packaging and microbeads in personal care products.
Darren Kindleysides from the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said the move was "welcome progress," even though no further information was disclosed besides the timeline and the types of products to be banned.
"This will help to ease the pressure on our marine wildlife," Kindleysides said in a media release. "AMCS has been calling for national consistency and agreement on the bans of dangerous single use plastics to give businesses certainty and ease consumer confusion.”
Australia plans to phase out a raft of single-use #plastics by 2025 in a bid to provide national consistency for industry. Lightweight plastic bags, straws, utensils and stirrers are among the products to eliminate. https://t.co/bbo2Kgxkr4pic.twitter.com/Fh0TnEMDel— Dr Alexey Kulikov (@KulikovUNIATF) April 17, 2021
An assortment of plastic bans had already been agreed upon by most states before Thursday's meeting.
South Australia, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory all pledged to ban various single-use plastics this year, while Western Australia and Victoria agreed to bans in 2023. New South Wales, Tasmania and the Northern Territory had yet to publicise any concrete plans.
Alongside the states, key businesses in Australia like Nike, the Pact Group, McDonald's and Nestlé have already vouched to switch plastic found in products like uniforms, packaging and cutlery to renewable and recycled materials.
Australia generated 75.8 million tonnes of waste in 2019, 2.5 million tonnes of which were classified as plastic waste.
Just 9% of plastic waste was recycled, with 84% sent to landfills.
Ultimately, around 13,000 tonnes of Australia’s plastic waste enters the environment each year, resulting in the average person ingesting 200 tiny pieces of plastic per week, according to a 2019 study by Australia's University of Newcastle and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
"Not only are plastics polluting our oceans and waterways and killing marine life — it's in all of us, and we can't escape consuming plastics," WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini said in a statement. "Global action is urgent and essential to tackling this crisis."
Australia joins countries like Canada, China, England, France, Rwanda and Kenya in introducing strict plastic bans.