South Australia has passed laws banning the sale of single-use plastics in a first for Australia, though the roll-out will be delayed due to the impact of the pandemic.
This week, South Australia’s State Government passed legislation banning the sale, distribution and supply of single-use plastics such as coffee stirrers, cutlery and straws. The state’s Environment Minister has said that the legislation was passed amid demands from consumers for more environmentally sustainable replacements of single-use plastics.
“this approach strikes an appropriate balance between the public’s desire for change and the needs of business.” Environment Minister David Speirs
It’s known officially as the Single-use and Other Plastic Products – Waste Avoidance – Bill, which marks a significant step for Australia in terms of combating the impact of excessive single-use plastics that are a major contributor to plastic pollution in sensitive ecosystems.
David Speirs, South Australia’s Environment Minister has said that the roll-out of the ban will be incremental, with the aim of banning all types of consumer plastic items, with takeaway containers next on the list.
“There has been significant community and industry support for swift action on single-use plastic products with many households and businesses across the state already taking steps to remove them,” he said.
“We want to deal with the low-hanging fruit in the first few months, that’s drink stirrers, cutlery and straws, then next year we’ll move onto takeaway containers… then we’ll be looking at coffee cups, fruit and veg barrier bags,” he said.
Minister Speirs stated that “over the next couple of years I think we’ll move quickly towards being single-use plastic free,” he said, adding that “there’s a real hunger in the community.”
The rollout of the single-use plastics ban is scheduled for 2021, after the South Australian government delayed the rollout amid the COVID-19’s impact on businesses and the wider economy.
Originally, the legislation was to be enacted and enforced in mid-2020, but an accelerated roll-out of the ban could have had detrimental impacts on small businesses, restaurants and cafes that are already struggling.
“This will give businesses time to bounce back and properly prepare before the ban comes into effect in early 2021,” Spiers said, adding that “this approach strikes an appropriate balance between the public’s desire for change and the needs of business.”
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Shane Cucow of the Australian Marine Conservation Society has told the ABC that South Australia’s move sets an important precedent for the rest of Australia in terms of environmental sustainability and forward thinking.
“South Australia has long been ahead of the curve on plastics,” Cucow said. “They were the first state or territory to introduce a container deposit scheme way back in 1977, and the first to ban plastic bags in 2009.”
The head of the Marine Conservation Society says he hopes that other states and territories will adopt South Australia’s approach to environmental management, adding that “it could be just this week that we see another state ticked off the list… it’s a really exciting time.”