Australia’s leading ocean conservation group has welcomed news that the Queensland Government is moving to ban plastic microbeads, cotton bud sticks, loose fill polystyrene packaging, and the mass release of lighter-than-air balloons, hailing it as another step forward to cleaning up our oceans. The government has also said they will introduce a reusability standard for carry bags, which will in effect ban disposable heavyweight plastic bags.
The ‘second wave’ of plastics to be banned will be phased out from 1 September 2023.
Single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers, plates, bowls and cutlery are already banned in the state, after laws first came into effect last year on 1 September 2021.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) welcomed the Queensland Government’s action, which comes on the same day Western Australia’s ban on single-use plastics comes into force. In the ACT, a second wave of plastics to be banned is also being implemented today.
“We’re very pleased to see the Queensland Government acting to eliminate more hard to recycle plastics, reducing the plastic that is choking our oceans,” said Shane Cucow, plastics spokesperson for the AMCS.
“Whether thick or thin, plastic bags in particular are some of the most lethal plastics for wildlife such as turtles, who mistake them for food.
Queensland will be the second state to ban thick plastic bags, after Western Australia has begun enforcing a ban on thicker plastic shopping bags from today.
With balloons one of the biggest plastic killers of seabirds, a formal ban on the mass release of lighter-than-air balloons is also great news for our wildlife.
The other plastics banned represent some of the most notable sources of small microplastics, with cotton bud sticks and expanded polystyrene commonly found in ocean cleanup surveys.”
While the news was welcomed, Mr Cucow stressed that much more still needed to be done to reduce ocean plastic pollution.
“We are disappointed to see that action on plastic cups, coffee cups and their lids has been delayed, as well as oxo-degradable plastics,” he said.
“Australians generate around 22,500 tonnes of hot cup waste annually, equating to an average of 72.7 cups per person. With most of it difficult to recycle, that’s a lot of plastic that is polluting our natural environment.
Oxo-degradable plastics are not biodegradable. Instead they have chemicals added that cause them to fragment, creating microplastics that persist in the marine environment.”
While Queensland, South Australia and the ACT move forward with the second wave of their plastics bans, other jurisdictions are yet to implement a ban on single-use plastics at all.
“In Tasmania, the state government has yet to announce concrete plans to ban single-use plastics, while the Northern Territory has delayed action until 2025,” said Mr Cucow.
“With earth friendly alternatives now widely available, it’s time to ditch killer plastics throughout all of Australia.”
A table comparing Australian state and territory commitments on single-use plastics is available here.
Notes to editors
Australia’s National Packaging Targets set a goal to phase out problematic single-use plastics by 2025.
The ACT’s ban on single-use plastic cutlery, drink stirrers and polystyrene food and beverage containers commenced 1 July 2021, with straws, cotton bud sticks and degradable plastics phased out on 1 July 2022. Details 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.
Queensland’s initial 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.
The Northern Territory Government has committed to ban single-use plastics by 2025, proposing to ban 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. This may include heavyweight plastic bags, subject to a consultation process. Details here.
Tasmania has made no commitments to ban single-use plastics.
Plastic pollution has also been associated with disease on coral reefs. A recent study of the effects of plastic on 124,000 reef-building corals from 159 reefs in the Asia Pacific Region (including Palm Islands, Whitsunday Islands and Keppel Islands) found the likelihood of disease increases from 4% to 89% when corals are in contact with plastic.