South Australia becomes first Australian state to ban single-use plastics

South Australia becomes first Australian state to ban single-use plastics
Hailed as a historic move, South Australia has become the first state in Australia to introduce laws banning single-use plastics.

The law, which is expected to roll out in early 2021, will make it illegal to sell, supply or distribute a “prohibited plastic product”.

These banned items include plastic straws, cutlery, drink stirrers, polystyrene cups, bowls, plates and takeaway containers.

Other items, such as single-use coffee cups, bowls, cotton buds and balloon sticks, are under consideration to be added to the banned list.

The law stipulates exemptions for people with disabilities or medical need for the items.

Law may save lives of countless animals, environmentalists say

Environmental campaigners say the landmark legislation will serve to protect wildlife and the environment.

“These historic new laws will prevent lethal plastic straws and cutlery from entering South Australia’s waterways and oceans, potentially saving the lives of countless seabirds, dolphins and whales,” says Shane Cucow, plastics spokesperson for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

Cucow hopes more states and territories will follow suit and introduce their own laws.

Legislation has already been brought to parliament in Queensland and the ACT, while Western Australia and New South Wales have held public forums around the ban on single-use plastic.

Retailers support ban, but demand more clarity

The National Retail Association says retailers have not been given enough time to adapt to the ban.

“Early 2021 is unrealistic for most retailers,” policy manager at the National Retail Association Ebony Johnson, told Guardian Australia. “This can be very complex for small businesses.”

The association says that while its members were “eager to comply” to the new laws, there needs to be more clarity for retailers on the what is considered ‘single-use’.

According to the legislation, single-use is defined as “a product designed or intended to be used once or for a limited number of times before being disposed of”.

Johnson says the term “a limited number of times” is too ambiguous and open to interpretation. “We need clarity to obey a law.”

SA environment minister David Speirs says due to COVID-19 restrictions, there is no set date for the laws to be enacted.

“This will give businesses time to bounce back and properly prepare before the ban comes into effect in early 2021. This approach strikes an appropriate balance between the public’s desire for change and the needs of businesses,” says Speirs.


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