Our single-use plastic bag ban, introduced in November 2011 following a Parliamentary Agreement item, has been a huge success.

Cups, cutlery, takeaway boxes, and cotton buds could all be banned according to City Services Minister, Chris Steel.

Chris steel has acknowledged that plastic bags were only the start and that “plastic bags make up less than one percent of rubbish going into landfill in the ACT”.

Although the Government does not currently have a list of the plastics that would be directly affected, they are instead releasing a discussion paper gauging the communities’ response to giving up certain plastics for an environmentally friendly alternative.

“Obviously this would have an impact on business, so we need to consult with them around the implementation of a ban or any other measure we should consider,”

said Chris Steel.

The ACT would be following in the footsteps of South Australia if the decision goes through. The European Union has also taken steps to remove single-use plastics, voting to ban them late last year.

ACT Liberals have stated they were not likely to back the ban, saying a broad-brush approach was “unworkable”.

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe said, “It would just be so difficult to back it given the so many exceptions there would have to be”.

He has also said that the ACT should consider alternatives, “There is so much innovation coming online in the recycling space,” and “There are new technologies that can recycle almost 100 percent of plastics”.

Plastic bag ban just the start

In 2017 alone, the ban reduced plastic bag use in the ACT by over 55 million bags. The ban is broadly supported by our Canberra community and is changing attitudes and behaviour. 

The ACT Government formally responded to a review of its plastic bag ban completed last year.

That review found the ban was reducing plastic use, but it raised questions over thicker plastic reusable bags, as well as compostable and cotton alternatives.

“We need to do further work to consider what better alternatives there are to plastic shopping bags,” Mr. Steel said.

Compostable bags cannot always be put into household composting and the ACT does not have a plant to process them.

And Mr. Steel said cotton bags need about 7,000 uses to break even with plastic.

“It’s much more complicated with the shopping bags — with some of the other plastic items there are clear alternatives.”

The ACT Government alone is seeking pathways to achieving the goals outlined in the ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011-2025, including the target of 90% of waste being diverted from landfill by 2025 and a carbon-neutral waste sector by 2020.