World news – Why are you paying for the plastic ban?


A ban on single-use plastics imported across South Australia today is expected to be passed by other states and territories but will ultimately lead to price increases for consumers, the National Retailers Association warned.

Starting today, the sale, delivery or distribution of plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery is banned in SA, while a wider selection of items, including styrofoam cups, bowls, plates and « clamshell » food containers, will be banned from March 2022.

Venues may continue to provide plastic straws to customers who need them due to health needs or disabilities upon request.

Legislation for similar systems is expected to be discussed and passed in the Queensland and ACT parliaments in the next few weeks.

Ebony Johnson of the National Retailers Association said the sector supports moves to phase out single-use plastic items, but alternatives are often much more expensive for businesses.

« Consumers could see some price increases this year and in the years to come, » Ms. Johnson said. « Alternatives like bamboo, wood, and cardboard are typically around five to ten times more expensive (for plastics) for retailers. You end up having to pass on (the cost). »

Ms. Johnson said retailers wanted state governments to work together because many companies had branches in multiple states and territories.

« More national coherence would be a huge benefit for consumers and businesses as at the moment it looks like each of these bans is going to be slightly different and that makes it confusing and more expensive for everyone, » she said.

South Australian Environment Minister David Speirs told News Corp Australia that he was « confident that the vast majority of South Australian companies are ready to do the right thing and, in fact, many have already moved over ».

« We have a model law here in SA that can be easily copied by other states. We have set up the laws so that we can regulate to add other elements to the ban as the consumer demands or as the market does, » he said .

Mr Spiers said his government will soon publish a discussion paper examining other things that could be banned – including plastic lids for coffee cups and the little soy sauce fish that is sold with sushi. « Everyone increases this, » he said.

The ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates in Queensland is expected to begin on September 1st. A poll of 20,000 Queenslanders last year found 94 percent support for such a ban, and the Palaszczuk government is now considering adding styrofoam food containers and cups to the list.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced on Saturday that plastic straws, cutlery, plates, stirrers, cotton swabs and food and beverage containers made of Styrofoam will be phased out in the next two years and banned in 2023.

In New South Wales, 16,000 entries were made in a 2020 discussion paper proposing a ban on single-use plastics. A spokesman for the Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment said the government is « working on the full feedback » and is likely to publish its plastics action plan in the coming months.

Last week, McDonald’s announced that it had used up its supply of plastic straws, having previously looked through 512 million items each year.

« We have to reduce plastic waste and it is important that more companies rise to the challenge, » said Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

« Some things we can do without, some can be replaced with more sustainable alternatives, and that’s what McDonald’s is doing in this case. »

A 2020 report on Australia’s waste systems found that less than 50 percent of the plastic put on the market was recovered.

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