Western Australia is the first jurisdiction to take action on plastic coffee cups and lids. Photo / Getty Images
Plastic bags and straws are among items one state in Australia will ban to protect the environment, but another jurisdiction has gone even further with plans to dump coffee cups.
New South Wales will aim to ban many common plastic items in a bid to protect the environment and reduce waste, while Western Australia is taking it even further by scrapping coffee cups.
The NSW state government announced on Sunday it would seek to ban items such as single-use plastic bags, cotton buds and straws, as part of a five-year plan costing $356 million.
“We want NSW to be a leader when it comes to reducing waste, maximising recycling and protecting our environment, but we want to do it in a way that drives job creation and innovation,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Sunday’s announcement means the government is signalling it is serious about the plastic ban, but actual legislation and enforcement will have to wait.
The plan is to target the supply chain, enticing businesses that rely on selling disposable plastic products to pivot to greener alternatives. Later on, there could be fines for noncompliance.
Products will be phased out by different timelines depending on whether there are existing and viable alternatives.
Plastic straws and cutlery, for example, which have already begun to be replaced by paper and bamboo alternatives, will be given a deadline a year from now.
Other products such as heavyweight bags and fruit stickers will be reviewed in three years.
The shortest time frame will be given for lightweight plastic shopping bags. Those should be gone in six months, according to the government’s timeline.
“The single-use items we are phasing-out will stop an estimated 2.7 billion items of plastic litter from ending up in our environment and waterways over the next 20 years,” NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said.
Meanwhile, in Western Australia the state government has fast-tracked its plan for plastics by four years.
Single-use plastic bowls, cups, plates, cutlery, stirrers, straws, polystyrene food containers, thick plastic bags and helium balloon releases will be phased out by the end of the year.
Stage two, which will now to be completed by the end of next year, includes plastic barrier/produce bags, cotton buds with plastic shafts, polystyrene packaging, microbeads and oxo-degradable plastics.
Takeaway coffee cups and lids with single-use plastic have also been added to the plan.
“The plastic bag ban has been embraced by retailers and the community,” West Australian Environment Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said on Sunday.
“This is the next step of the journey to reduce landfill and ensure a healthy environment.”
WWF Australia’s no plastics in nature policy manager Kate Noble congratulated Western Australia for being the first state to take action on plastic coffee cups and lids.
“Australians discard about a billion coffee cups every year. This is a massive mountain of waste that most governments aren’t acting on, so it’s great to see WA leading the way,” she said.
“There are viable, sustainable alternatives to these single-use plastic items, so there’s no excuse for delaying action.”
Noble said plastic pollution remained a global problem.
“We’re seeing huge momentum across the country on tackling plastic pollution, with today’s announcements from WA and NSW just the latest in a race to the top,” she said.
One reason for banning the plastic products is that the waste they create can harm wildlife, especially in the ocean.
Kean said fish would be outnumbered by plastic debris by 2050 if nothing changes.
The NSW government will also seek to decrease litter in general by making sure every household in the state can separate food scraps from other garbage.
If everything goes according to plan, NSW’s total waste would be cut by 10 per cent per person by the year 2030.
NSW will be the last state in Australia to implement a plastic ban, according to Shane Cucow from the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
“As the state with the largest plastic footprint, today’s commitments mean a massive reduction in the flow of plastics into Australia’s oceans,” she told the ABC.
“Every day we are waiting, we are seeing more animals die from plastic pollution.”