Single-use Plastics Bans

Subject: Single Use Problematic Unnecessary

There are several single-use plastic bans in place or in development across Australia and New Zealand.

For details on single-use plastics, please read the below.

What is a single-use plastic?

A single-use plastic, often referred to as an SUP, is designed or intended to be discarded after one use, after its contents have been unpacked or exhausted, or after a short period of time. Single-use plastics are made entirely of, or partly from plastic, which is a material that comes from fossil fuels or comprises organic polymers of plant.

Why are they problematic?

Some (but not all) single-use plastics are problematic as they have low recycling rates and high rates of disposal to landfill. They contribute significantly to litter as they are frequently used outside of the home. Some of these plastics contain hazardous chemicals or materials that are bad for human health and the environment. They can contaminate current sorting and reprocessing systems, and the costs incurred to produce these materials, including energy and labour, are also lost after a single use.

Why are states and territories banning single-use plastics?

Millions of problematic single-use plastics are used by Australians every year. Most of these items are not recycled, contaminate recycling waste streams, and tend to end up in landfill. Importantly, they can take hundreds of years to break down.

When plastics enter the environment, they degrade into smaller fragments known as microplastics which pollute oceans, rivers and streams, threatening marine life and other ecosystems. Microplastics can also enter the food chain thereby posing risks to human health.

Reducing plastic pollution will improve human health and the quality of the environment and reduce clean-up costs.

What are common single-use plastics?

Common problematic single-use plastics include straws, cutlery, plates, bowls, cups, takeaway food containers made from expanded polystyrene, and lightweight plastic bags.

What is APCO’s view on single-use plastics?

One of the 2025 National Packaging Targets (2025 Targets) is to phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging. This target is essential in achieving the other 2025 Targets including 100% of packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, and that 70% of all plastic packaging is recycled or composted.

The objective of phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging is to shift our economy and community towards more durable, reusable and recyclable packaging. This starts at the design stage; changing our approach to improve end-of-life recovery for packaging products; and moving towards a circular economy for packaging in Australia.

To transition towards a circular economy for packaging, businesses are encouraged to rethink how they bring their products to consumers, without relying on disposable packaging. After avoiding or reducing packaging materials, the waste hierarchy places reuse as the next best pathway to explore when phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use packaging.

A collaborative approach is critical from all key stakeholders including brand owners, industry, government, academia, and community groups to achieve greater progress in reaching the 2025 Targets. Greater behavioural change among producers and consumers is also encouraged and supported through government legislation and regulation.

APCO Members are encouraged to participate in this shift away from problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic items and should follow relevant state and territory legislation to ensure their compliance. APCO Members are also encouraged to utilise APCO’s Action Plan for Problematic and Unnecessary Single-use Plastic Packaging as a guide for best practice. The actions outlined within this plan have been modelled on international approaches and are also aligned with local, state and territory action on single-use plastics.


Related resources

·        Action Plan for Problematic and Unnecessary Single-use Plastic Packaging

·        Action Plan to Phase Out PFAS in Fibre-Based Food Contact Packaging

·        Roadmap to Implement the National Phase Out of Business-To-Consumer EPS Packaging