Victoria has become the third Australian jurisdiction to ban single-use plastics, including polystyrene containers, straws, cutlery, plates and plastic cotton bud sticks.
On Saturday the environment minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, announced a phase-out and ban of specific single-use plastics by 2023, including at bars, cafes and restaurants, in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic waste that goes to landfill each year.
The phase out and ban will not affect medical or scientific equipment, emergency services or other activities that require these types of plastics.
“Single-use plastic items – like straws and plastic cups – make up about one-third of Victoria’s litter,” D’Ambroisio said. “We need to change this, so we’re getting rid of them.”
Each Victorian sends an average of 68kg of plastic waste to landfill every year.
The government will consult businesses and the community throughout 2021 as part of a formal regulatory impact statement process.
It follows South Australia in September becoming the first Australian state to ban some single-use plastics including cutlery, straws and stirrers. The South Australian legislation also lists items under consideration to be added to the ban list, including single-use coffee cups and lids and single-use plastic bowls, plates, food containers, balloon sticks, balloon ties, bags and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.
However, the introduction of the legislation was delayed due to Covid.
There is concern that the Covid-19 pandemic may have stymied some progress towards lessening a reliance on plastic, with an increase in medical waste from disposable masks, gloves and gowns, disposable wipes, and liquid soap.
In December Queensland also introduced legislation to stem the destructive effects of plastic on marine life and waterways. The government is seeking community feedback on whether the ban should be extended to include polystyrene containers.
A 2019 report by the Center for International Environmental Law said urgent action to stem production and disposal of throwaway plastic was needed.
“At current levels, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global community to keep global temperature rise below 1.5C,” it said.
“With the petrochemical and plastic industries planning a massive expansion in production, the problem is on track to get much worse.”