Further bans on single-use plastics in the ACT have been announced this week.
From 1 July 2023, the ACT government will ban additional single-use plastics including single-use plastic plates and bowls, expanded polystyrene loose fill packaging and trays, and plastic microbeads in rinse-off personal care and cleaning products.
The timeframe for the ban has, however, been criticised by the retail industry.
Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra says while retailers are strongly aligned with the move towards sustainable practices, the last-minute notice around the timing of the bans to take effect in July 2023 fails to give retailers adequate time to prepare for and implement changes.
“Reducing plastic pollution is of utmost importance and we fully support moves to ban single-use plastics, but it requires a practical and collaborative approach between government, industry and consumers,” he says.
“We have participated in good faith consultation with the government on these bans and are disappointed that the operational logistics of industry have not been considered.
“We are concerned that, without sufficient time to prepare for these bans, the unintended consequence is that we could see a lot of single use plastic end up in landfill which has environmental and financial ramifications.
“This is an avoidable set of consequences that could be alleviated with improved planning and communication.
“Retailers require more than three months’ notice to design, acquire and test safe alternatives to single-use plastics. This isn’t something that can be achieved in a month.
“Customers also need adequate knowledge about changes and replacement practices. This is a standard consideration in any change campaign.”
Mr Zahra says the ARA would like to work with the ACT government to develop an implementation timeline that the organisation’s members can happily support and realistically meet.
“We think this could be achieved by deferring these timelines by three months, or at least offering a three-month grace period between the regulations coming into effect and enforcement activities commencing,” he says.
“While we are encouraged that the ACT has traditionally taken an education over enforcement approach, our members and their customers do need the clarity of knowing when the bans will come into effect and when they will be enforced.
“Single-use plastics make up a third of the waste we see in our environment. Addressing the challenge of plastic pollution remains a top priority for the retail sector but if we set unrealistic time frames in the transition, we are setting ourselves up to fail.
“It’s especially difficult for small businesses to respond to these changes in such a short period of time.”
The ACT government also announced that it would ban heavier “boutique” plastic bags from 1 January 2024.