New South Wales and Western Australia announced major revamped plans to phase out single-use plastics this week, with each state unveiling new timelines to ban plastic cutlery, straws, stirrers, microbeads, food packaging and cotton buds.
In New South Wales, a $365 million, six-stage recycling and waste-reduction plan was unveiled, which intends to eliminate most single-use plastic within the next year, while establishing a robust circular economy model for recycling and recovering 80% of resources from waste streams by 2030.
The plan is expected to prevent 2.7 billion plastic items from entering the environment over the next 20 years.
Western Australia, meanwhile, will phase out plastic items like bowls, cups, plates, cutlery, stirrers, straws, polystyrene food containers and thick plastic bags by 2021. Plastic coffee cups and lids, cotton buds and microbeads will be banned by the end of 2022.
Western Australian Environment Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said further plastic bans were announced after the release of positive survey results, which showed 98% of West Australians backed tighter restrictions and further action.
"The plastic bag ban has been embraced by retailers and the community; this is the next step of the journey to reduce landfill and ensure a healthy environment,” Sanderson said in a media release. “For most of us, this will only involve making small changes to our behaviour.”
She vowed those who rely on various plastic items, like individuals living with a disability, will be exempt from the bans.
The New South Wales government has made a similar promise.
In more good news this week, lightweight plastic bags, disposable plastic straws and cutlery, plastic cotton buds and microbeads will be banned in New South Wales from next year, as part of @GladysB 's state government push to reduce plastic litter by 30% by 2025. #NSW@NSW_EPA— Australian Council of Recycling (@ACOR11) June 15, 2021
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia has warmly welcomed the two new announcements.
"We’re seeing huge momentum across the country on tackling plastic pollution, with today’s announcements from Western Australia and New South Wales just the latest,” WWF Australia's plastics policy manager Kate Noble said, before explaining that state governments could only do so much.
"We know that plastic pollution is a global problem, and tackling it through a global agreement is the next step," Noble explained. "That process has already started, and Australia should be playing a leadership role."
Each year, Australians throw away close to a billion coffee cups.
The standard takeaway coffee cups cannot be recycled due to their plastic inner lining, meaning most end up in landfill and contribute to the 130,000 tons of plastic that flow through Australia’s oceans, waterways and environment every year.
Tasmania and the Northern Territory are now the only two Australian states yet to unveil a plan to ban single-use plastics.