The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the next stage of single-use plastics phase-outs to take effect on 1 September 2023 but called for urgent attention to reduce cost and complexity caused by the lack of a national consistent approach.
From 1 September 2023, new bans will come into effect in three states – each with different regulations – creating avoidable complexity for retailers: particularly national operators.
- South Australia: Plastic plates and plastic bowls without lids, cotton buds with plastic sticks and pizza savers will be prohibited.
- Queensland: Thick plastic bags, cotton buds with plastic sticks, microbeads, polystyrene packaging and helium balloon releases will be prohibited.
- Western Australia: Expanded polystyrene cups and packaging, cotton buds with plastic sticks, microbeads, oxo-degradable plastics and oxo-degradable plastics will be prohibited.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra says while government policies to reduce single-use plastics are admirable and consistent with consumer values, dealing with different rules in each jurisdiction has been complex, costly and confusing for retailers.
“Single-use plastics make up a third of the waste in our environment and Australians are wanting to see change,” Mr Zahra said.
“So, addressing the challenge of plastic pollution remains a top priority for the retail sector.
“We are proud of industry’s progress in transitioning away from single-use plastics, particularly the agility shown by retailers in responding to the staggered approach taken by state and territory governments, which continues to be incredibly challenging,” he said.
“The rollout of three different sets of regulations, in three states, on the same day underscores the logistical headaches caused by state-by-state rollouts and the need for national alignment.
“Our members have told us that we could have transitioned away from single-use plastics much faster if we’d had a national framework and a national education program.”
Mr Zahra said the unnecessary complexity also risked inadvertent compliance breaches.
“With these variations between states, it’s inevitable that some retailers will inadvertently make mistakes, and so we hope during the transition that government embraces an education over enforcement approach.”
Retailers can visit retail.org.au/plastics to help understand and navigate these changes.