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South Australia takes steps to banning single-use plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers

South Australia is set to be the first state in Australia to ban multiple single-use plastic items such as plastic straws, cutlery, and stirrers.

In early July, the South Australian government announced it is drafting legalisation for public discussion to ban these items by 2020. 

The release of Turning the Tide on Single Use Plastics: The Next Step plan pushes for an initial ban on single-use plastic utensils followed by a range of other products, such as takeaway polystyrene containers and cups, to be considered for future intervention following further consultation. 

To help inform the development of the legislation, a stakeholder taskforce will be established comprising representatives of selected business, industry, local government and interest groups to ensure that impacts are mitigated and appropriate time is given for transition. 

The banning of single-use plastic products will also be piloted through voluntary business/retailer led ‘plastic-free precincts’, which will identify opportunities and challenges associated with transitions away from single-use plastic products and inform legislation. 

South Australia’s Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs, said a discussion paper earlier this year received strong feedback from South Australians seen to see action on single-use plastics. 

About 3,500 submissions showed community and industry support for increased measures to address a range of single-use plastic products and other items. 

“Nearly 99 per cent of respondents recognised the environmental problems associated with single-use plastics and nearly 97 per cent supported government intervention. 

“The community has called for swift action on single use plastic products,” Speirs said. 

The South Australian government will release draft legislation for further public consultation later this year with the intention to introduce it to the parliament in 2020. 

“Social and corporate action is already underway on some of these items and there are readily available alternatives. 

“I encourage industry stakeholder to register their interest for the stakeholder taskforce,” Speirs said. 

On Monday, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO, Gayle Sloan, said South Australia is ahead of the pack and the hope is that other jurisdictions will follow suit and take similar action against single-use plastics. 

“Regulating the use of single-use plastics will go a long way in avoiding the creation of unnecessary waste, reducing pollution and increasing reuse of materials. It is also hoped that such an initiative will assist in improving the quality of recyclable materials recovered in the State by eliminating contaminants often found in the yellow bin.

“Eliminating single-use items that have readily available reusable alternatives is a great step in reducing waste generation and challenging the convenience paradigm that we have towards consumption,” Sloan said. 

She explained that people should rethink what products they buy and whether they even need them.  

“Changing single-use plastics behaviours is challenging and WMRR encourages the government to also think about effective education and communication to complement the roll-out of the ban, including how to encourage avoidance in the first instance, as well as incentives and rewards to assist businesses as they transition in 2020 when the ban in enacted.”

Sloan added that SA could take the lead in driving a national outcome at the next Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM), which would assist in achieving one of the National Waste Policy goals of reducing waste per capita.