With a week to go until the lightweight plastic shopping bag ban, we’re myth-busting what’s actually being phased out. NSW plastic bag ban
Media reporting earlier this week has made it sound like all lightweight plastic shopping bags. This isn’t the case causing unnecessary confusion for many small businesses.
What bags are being banned on 1 June in NSW?
From 1 June 2022, the supply of lightweight plastic shopping bags with handles that are 35 microns or less in thickness is banned.
The ban does not apply to other plastic bags such as:
- bags that do not have handles
- barrier/produce bags (e.g. handle-free bags that protect fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat or fish)
- bin liner or waste bags
- animal waste bags
- produce bags
- bags used for medical purposes and
- sealed product packaging bags (e.g. bread bags, ziplock bags)
Who does the ban apply to?
The ban applies to:
- Retail or hospitality businesses, such as restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, takeaway food outlets, party supply stores, discount stores, supermarkets, market stalls, online stores, and any other retailer must not provide these items to customers.
- Manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and wholesalers must not supply banned items within or into NSW. Penalties are doubled for this sector.
- Community organisations eg. community groups, government bodies and not-for-profits, such as charities, welfare services, religious bodies, education providers, and fundraising events must not supply banned items. This includes items used as part of a service, for regular activities, or during events or fundraising activities.
It is not an offence in NSW to supply a banned item to a person outside NSW (such as a distribution centre), but we recommend checking for similar bans in other jurisdictions.
Exemptions will apply in certain settings to allow the continued supply of single-use plastic straws to people with a disability or healthcare need.
Can I still supply banned items if I give them away free?
You cannot supply banned items after the deadline. This is regardless of whether a fee is charged, the item is given out for free or charged.
It is also an offence to possess or display banned items for the purposes if supply, so we recommend that packaging suppliers ensure NSW customers cannot purchase banned items from your website or that your website clearly identifies banned items.
I just bought a heap of bags, do I have to throw them all out?
You cannot continue to supply these items even if you purchased them before the ban. The EPA’s approach will start with education and awareness to encourage compliance, and enforcement will only be pursued where needed.
First, consider if you need to offer a bag with every sale and whether you can introduce reusable bags for sale.
If you still need an alternative bag, contact your supplier and check whether your current bags are compliant.
Questions to ask your supplier:
- Do these items comply with the NSW plastics ban that comes into effect in 2022?
- Are my plastic shopping bags more than 35 microns in thickness at all parts of the bag?
Since all other states already have similar bans in place, most suppliers have a wide range of alternative bags such as paper, fabric and thick reusable bags.
Speak to your supplier and see if they can exchange the items for compliant alternatives.
The NSW EPA is also considering bulk, free recycling options, register your interest with the EPA here.
Please note that additional items will be banned on 1 November in NSW.
Want to know more?
The National Retail Association has been working directly with the NSW Government on the education campaign. There are a whole raft of resources for your staff and customers available at the Plastics Ban NSW Page. For further assistance contact the National Retail Association hotline on 1800 844 946 or email email@example.com.
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Need help on single-use plastic bans?
The NRA Policy team are the leading experts on plastics bans across Australia, and can answer your curly questions on current and proposed bans in QLD, NSW, WA, SA, VIC and ACT.
Every day, our team are visiting hundreds of retailers in their stores across 4 states, as well as providing materials, websites, online sessions, hotline and email contact channels.
We understand that while retailers are highly supportive of phasing out single-use plastics, businesses face significant challenges understanding different rules in each jurisdiction, as well as experiencing ongoing supply chain and pandemic-related pressures.
Attend one of our sessions this Wednesday, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.