Media Release Plastic Pollution

NT plastic ban will help territory wildlife

April 28, 2022

An alliance of leading environmental groups have welcomed the release of the Northern Territory Government’s NT Circular Economy Strategy 2022-2027, describing it as an important step towards cleaning up the Territory’s rivers and coasts.

The strategy includes a commitment to introduce a ban on single-use plastics, commensurate with other Australian states and territories. The ban will include plastic bags, plastic straws and stirrers, plastic cutlery, plastic bowls and plates, expanded polystyrene (EPS), consumer food containers, microbeads in personal health care products, EPS consumer goods packaging (loose fill and moulded), and helium balloons.

However environmental advocates have expressed concern that the ban will not be introduced until 2025, three years later than almost every other state and territory. The Keep Top End Coasts Healthy Alliance, an alliance of organisations which includes the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Environment Centre NT, are calling for the government to bring the ban forward to 2023, in line with other states and territories.

In addition to banning single-use plastics, the Circular Economy Strategy includes $11 million of government investment in recycling infrastructure in the Territory, as well as a commitment to expand the scope of the Territory’s Container Deposit Scheme to include wine bottles and milk containers, and increase accessibility to the scheme in regional and remote areas.

Shane Cucow, Plastics Campaign Manager for the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said: “This is a critical step towards cleaning up our Territory’s incredible rivers and coasts. By eliminating lethal single-use plastics like straws and cutlery, the government is taking decisive action to protect our iconic turtles and seabirds.

“Critically, the NT Government will be the first in Australia to ban helium balloons, the biggest plastic killer of seabirds. Lightweight and easily lost or blown away, these silent killers head out to the ocean where they entangle wildlife in their strings, or get eaten by animals who mistake them for food.

“By getting rid of this dangerous and unnecessary plastic, the NT Government is taking decisive action to protect the wildlife that make our Top End special.

“However it is disappointing to see the NT Government has delayed their ban on single-use plastics until 2025. With bans already in effect across half of Australia’s states and territories, there’s no excuse for delaying action.

“Every day we wait, more of these unnecessary plastics are entering our waterways, endangering our turtles and wildlife.”

Kirsty Howey, Co-Director of the Environment Centre NT said: “Territorians are proud of the rich biodiversity in our local rivers and oceans, and they are rightly concerned about the increasing amounts of plastic they’re finding on our coasts.

“The Northern Territory has the worst recycling rate in the country, recovering just 7% of plastic packaging for recycling. We’re pleased to see the government has committed to tackle these problem plastics, and invest in the recycling infrastructure that our Territory desperately needs.”

Notes for editors

An independent scorecard comparing state and territory bans on single-use plastics is available here.

South Australia’s ban on single-use plastics commenced on 1 March 2021, banning single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cutlery. On 1 March 2022, polystyrene food & beverage containers as well as oxo-degradable plastics were added to the ban. Details here.

The ACT’s ban on single-use plastic cutlery, drink stirrers and polystyrene food and beverage containers commenced 1 July 2021, with straws, fruit & veggie barrier bags and degradable plastics on the list to be phased out on 1 July 2022 this year. Details here.

Queensland’s ban on single-use plastics commenced on 1 September 2021, banning single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls and polystyrene food & beverage containers. Details here.

Western Australia’s ban on single-use plastics commenced 1 January 2022, with enforcement delayed until 1 July 2022. The ban includes plastic cutlery, stirrers, straws, plates, bowls, cups, thick plastic bags, polystyrene food containers, and helium balloon releases. In stage two, now to be completed by 2023, takeaway coffee cups/lids containing plastic, plastic barrier/produce bags, cotton buds with plastic shafts, polystyrene packaging, microbeads and oxo-degradable plastics will be banned. Details here.

The New South Wales Government has passed laws to ban single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates and bowls, expanded polystyrene food service items, plastic cotton bud sticks, and microbeads in cosmetics. Lightweight plastic bags will be phased out by 1 June 2022 and the remaining plastics will be prohibited from 1 November 2022. Details here.

Victoria‘s government has committed to ban single-use plastics by 1 February 2023, including single-use plastic straws, cutlery, plates, drink stirrers, polystyrene food and drink containers, and plastic cotton bud sticks. Details here.

Tasmania has made no commitments to ban single-use plastics.