Plastic Free July: Local Plastic Bans in Australia and New Zealand

Happy Plastic Free-July! This week, we’re taking a look at the second of the five Rs – reduce. Reducing plastic can be an effective way to counter your usage. You can reduce your plastic intake by simply carrying a reusable bag or coffee cup with you. 

Sometimes, we encounter situations where we are left with no other alternative but to use plastic. For instance, when a lot of fruits and vegetables are wrapped in plastic, or we order take out and it’s served in plastic or polystyrene takeaway containers. 

As consumers, we can only do our best. Plastic is a low-cost, low-weight solution that many businesses are forced to use in order to remain competitive. That’s why it’s important that governments step in to take action to prevent plastic many hard-to-recycle plastics from ever being used. 

Globally, countries have started to roll out bans on certain types of plastic. With a focus on ones that are hard-to-recycle or are particularly harmful to the environment. Amazingly, Australia and New Zealand have started also to enforce bans of this nature. In the name of reducing plastic, we wanted to take a closer look at what these bans entail, and what it means for consumers and for the planet!

Australia’s ban on plastics

Following the National Plastic Summit in 2020, the Australian government announced a plan to start cracking down on plastics, with an aim to have 100% of packaging be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

This is a really positive step in starting to combat plastic. Takes time and money for businesses to make these changes, so announcing gradual changes gives people more than enough time to adjust.

How did the plastic ban start in Australia?

  • South Australia was the first state in Australia to ban the sale, supply and distribution of single-use plastic products such as straws, cutlery and beverage stirrers.
  • This created a domino effect, with the other Australian states taking similar action rolling out plastic bans, spanning not just single-use items, but also including micro-beads, cotton-bud sticks and fruit and veg packaging.

Is Australia banning any other hard-to-recycle materials?

Great news! Australia is focussing on other hard-to-recycle materials such as polystyrene and certain types of biodegradable plastic.

  • Polystyrene will be phased out from 2022 as part of Australia’s plastic waste plan. This will also see a phase-out of packaging that does not meet compostable standards. 
  • Biodegradable: To start dealing with Australia’s mounting plastic crisis, the federal government National Plastics Plan also outlines plans to ban the main form of biodegradable plastic.

What states in Australia have banned plastic?

Amazingly, now all but two states have committed to banning single-use plastics. For a state-by-state breakdown, the Australian Marine Conservation Society has laid it out clearly, below:

New Zealand’s ban on plastic

It’s exciting to see that New Zealand is starting to take serious action against plastic. Last month, the New Zealand Government  announced a significant ban on a number of hard-to-use plastics by 2025, which includes single-use plastic packaging, earbuds, spoons and straws. The new policy will remove two billion single-use items from NZ landfill each year.

This is a step in the right direction. While the ban will see a number of hard-to-recycle plastics phased out by 2025, that’s still over three years and six billion single-use items going to landfill until this ban comes into effect. 

For businesses and consumers looking to make a change now, you can with TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box solution and free national recycling programmes in New Zealand, which can provide an interim solution for a number of hard-to-recycle waste streams. 

What’s the New Zealand Government’s plan for rolling out plastic?

  • In 2019, the NZ Government rolled out a nationwide ban on plastic shopping bags but this new ban will also include plastic packaging on fruits and vegetable
  • In 2021 the government announced further bans on single-use plastic items, targeting plastic packaging, earbuds, spoons and straw.
  • From January 2023, New Zealand will phase out all PVC plastic food and beverage packaging, some polystyrene food and beverage packaging and all oxo-degradable plastic products. 

January 2025: Phase out all remaining polystyrene food and beverage packaging, all other expanded polystyrene (EPS) packaging.

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