March 16, 2021 – By Graham Readfearn in The Guardian
Queensland has become the second Australian state to pass laws banning single-use plastics including straws and cutlery that are blighting the state’s waterways and beaches and endangering wildlife.
Environmental groups congratulated the Queensland government after it passed legislation on Wednesday night that will ban single-use plastic items, including polystyrene food containers and cups, from 1 September.
The state’s environment minister, Meaghan Scanlon, said the state had seen benefits from its 2018 ban on single-use plastic bags, which had dropped 70% in litter surveys.
The state’s container deposit scheme that gives a 10c return on most plastic and glass bottles, also introduced in 2018, was now approaching 3bn returned items.
“Plastic pollution is spoiling our streets and parks, escaping into our ocean and waterways and killing our iconic wildlife,” Scanlon said. “Half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once and then thrown away and that litter is destroying our environment.”
South Australia was the first state to introduce a ban on single-use plastics, in September, with a similar list of items banned.
Last week the federal government launched a national plastics plan that includes a phase-out by 2022 of expanded polystyrene packaging and food containers.
Queensland’s ban covers single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates, and polystyrene food containers and cups.
The laws exempt supply to people who need any of those items, such as people with disability or healthcare needs.
Exemptions have also been made for plastic straws and spoons attached to food packaging, including drink cartons and yoghurts, though the minister said this would be reviewed.
More items could be added under the legislation, Scanlon said, and consultation was continuing.
Toby Hutcheon, of the Boomerang Alliance of more than 50 environmental groups, said he hoped to see coffee cups and lids and other plastic takeaway items, and heavyweight plastic bags joining the banned list.
Hutcheon thanked the Liberal National party, the Queensland Greens and Katter’s Australian party for backing the law.
The plastics included in the ban were among the most littered items in Queensland, he said, with the latest Clean Up Australia report from litter-pick days estimating 30% of all items collected were plastic packaging.
He said the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Western Australia have also announced single-use plastic bans but have yet to put those into law.
The best approach for the public, he said, was to avoid the use of single-use plastic items entirely, or to buy reusable or compostable versions.
Shane Cucow, of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the laws were “fantastic news for Queensland’s turtles, whales and seabirds”.
He added: “Every day we wait we lose more animal lives. We urge every state and territory to join Queensland and South Australia and ban single-use plastics this year.
“With Earth-friendly alternatives now widely available, it’s time to ditch killer plastics throughout all of Australia.”