Retailers are taking action on single-use plastics (SUPs), such as lightweight plastic bags, straws, cutlery, and other plastic items.

The NRA supports the phase-out of single-use, unnecessary and problematic plastics to reduce litter, however for these to be successful and long-lasting, these changes must be:

  • nationally consistent
  • fair for all retailers regardless of size
  • carefully considered and evidence-based
  • commercially viable and realistic in a global market
  • supported by retailer & consumer education
  • supported by investment in Australian innovation & infrastructure

While some differences in timing are expected between states, critical differences between legislation are halting or reversing environmental progress. We call on local, state and federal governments to work together so retailers can invest in sustainability with certainty.

 

Governments in multiple states and territories are currently either implementing or considering bans on a range of plastic items including:

  • plastic straws
  • plastic cutlery
  • plastic stirrers
  • plastic plates/bowls
  • plastic cups
  • plastic-lined coffee cups
  • plastic takeaway containers
  • plastic shopping bags
  • plastic produce bags
  • degradable / oxo-degradable plastics
  • balloons

The National Retail Association is an active member of all state government taskforces and advisory groups.

We work with the whole supply chain – retailers, suppliers, recyclers, waste collection, activist groups, producers and charities – to bring unique insight, technical knowledge, practical experience and international evidence to help inform government policy decisions.

Our goal is to enable sustainable change that is practical, accessible, fair, and ultimately better for the environment rather than greenwashing.

 

Download our Summary Table on current and proposed legislation (link updated regularly).

View the Summary Table

  • Successes & Challenges for Businesses

    Item bans proving successful

    • Lightweight plastic shopping bags
    • Straws
    • Stirrers
    • Cutlery
    • Plastic plates
    • Unlidded plastic bowls
    • EPS foodware
    • EPS cups

    Why

    • Safe & viable alternatives available
    • Industry leadership
    • Reasonable notice
    • Evidence of some consumer behaviour change

     

    Item bans proving difficult

    • Printed paper plates & bowls
    • Cups (and their lids/seals)
    • Containers (and their lids/seals)
    • Any items with plastic lids
    • Reusable shopping bags
    • Produce bags

    Why

    • Different rules per jurisdiction
    • Contradiction of globally-recognised models (eg. waste hierarchy)
    • Lack of consistent or widespread infrastructure (eg. composting only available to less than 20% of population)
    • Lack of viable, safe alternatives (eg. alternatives that melt, leach, disintegrate)
    • Cost & time issues (eg. covid, supply chain, staffing, shipping, global impacts)
    • Misleading information (eg. bioplastics, plastic-free)
    • Adverse environmental impacts (eg. carbon impacts of paper, litter impacts of bioplastics)
    • Consumer behaviour, aggression and misunderstanding
    • Short & inconsistent regulation lead times

     

    Recommendations

    Actions which would help industry to deliver better, long-term environmental outcomes:

    1. National harmonisation
    2. Support existing / recognised frameworks
    3. More viable, safe alternatives
    4. Resource recovery infrastructure
    5. Longer-term plans & commitments
    6. Public education
  • NRA Business Engagement Programs

    Over the past 5 years the NRA have also demonstrated our commitment to helping businesses understand and comply with single-use plastic bans, delivering over 10 state-wide business engagement programs and awareness programs reaching over 10 million Australian consumers and businesses.

    Within the last 12 months alone, the NRA team have been engaged to deliver custom Business Engagement Programs by 5 state governments (SA, ACT, QLD, NSW, WA) to educate and support over 50,000 retailers, suppliers, charities and community organisations impacted by SUP bans.

    Our Business Engagement Programs

    Over the past 5 years, our team has helped over 100,000 retail and food outlets, suppliers, charities and community groups to phase-out over 10 billion single-use plastic items.

    We customise our education and engagement programs to each government ban, location, demographics and stakeholder groups, providing a range of resources and services designed to help businesses and other impacted stakeholders to understand the ban and manage their transition. In some programs we also have the opportunity to deliver large-scale awareness campaigns.

    Importantly, our specialised team of liaisons visit hundreds of small and medium retailers in their stores every day – across metro and regional Australia – to provide resources, answer questions, and provide personalised advice to suit each unique business.

    Based on each state government’s needs, we also provide services designed for time-poor businesses who need clear, concise information:

      • Specialist team
      • Dedicated websites
      • Factsheets, signage and translated materials
      • Online info sessions
      • Tollfree hotline and email
      • Awareness campaigns
      • Advice across multiple bans
      • Post-ban support
      • Business surveys to inform future action

    Need help?

Single-use plastic bans by state

Need help?

Below information current as of 1 June 2022.

  • NSW Single-Use Plastics Ban

    What’s banned?

    From 1 June 2022, lightweight plastic shopping bags with handles that are 35 microns or less are banned in NSW.

    From 1 November 2022, the following items are banned in NSW:

    • Single-use plastic straws & stirrers
    • Single-use plastic cutlery
    • Single-use plastic plates
    • Single-use plastic bowls without spill-proof lids
    • Food containers & cups that are made from expanded polystyrene (EPS)
    • Single-use plastic cotton buds
    • Rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads.

    It is also an offence to display banned items, possess for supply and provide false/misleading info.

    Items not in the list above (eg. cups, containers) will be reviewed in 2024.

    Key notes

    • Compostable plastics:
      • banned for all items
    • Exemptions:
        • items in sealed pre-packaged food & bev before store by machine process
        • distribution outside the state
        • straws on request (not on display)
        • plastic-coated paper plates & bowls
        • cotton buds used for forensic, scientific or medical purposes
        • also see detailed info on exemption applications >

    More information

  • WA Plastics Ban

    What’s banned?

    Banned from 1 January 2022:

    • It is an offence to provide false or misleading information about items which are included in the ban.

     Banned from 1 July 2022:

    • All plastic shopping bags with handles (includes all thickness, includes polymer-coated paper bags, additional requirements for fabric bags)
    • Disposable plastic straws & stirrers
    • Disposable plastic cutlery
    • Disposable plastic plates (incl. polymer-coated paper)
    • Disposable plastic bowls without lids (incl. polymer-coated paper)
    • Disposable plastic containers without lids (incl. polymer-coated paper)
    • Food containers & trays that are made from expanded polystyrene
    • Balloon releases (balloons not banned)

    Banned from 1 October 2022:

    • Disposable plastic cups for cold drinks (cup lids not yet banned)

    Key notes

    • Compostable plastics:
      • banned for most items
      • except specific rules for paperboard products
    • Exemptions:
      • items in sealed pre-packaged food & bev before store
      • distribution outside the state
      • straws on request (not on display)
      • EPS trays used for raw meat or seafood
      • other specific exemptions apply eg. airlines

    More information

    UPDATE: STAGE 2 BAN DETAILS RELEASED

    The WA Government is seeking industry feedback on the next stage of bans.

    3 phases are proposed in the Stage 2 ban

    • Regulations commence 1 February 2023 (false & misleading offence commences)
    • Phase 2.1 – Supply banned by 1 August 2023
      • Degradable plastic (incl. oxo-degradable and landfill degradable)
      • Cotton buds with plastic shafts
      • Microbeads
      • EPS cups and EPS in food and beverage packaging (including meat trays)
      • Loose fill EPS packaging and other expanded plastic equivalents eg. EPE, EPP and foamed bioplastic
    • Phase 2.2 – Supply banned by 1 Feb 2024
      • Takeaway coffee cups (excl. AU certified lined paper cups)
      • Cup Lids – hot & cold drinks (including lined paper)
      • Lids for takeaway food containers and bowls (excl. AU certified lined paper lids)
        • And therefore all lidded containers and bowls excluded in Stage 1
      • Produce/ Barrier Bags (including those used for fruit, veges, dairy, cured meat, nuts, confectionary that are not pre-packed before arrival at store; excluding raw meat)
    • Phase 2.3 – Supply banned by 1 August 2024
      • Moulded EPS packaging and other expanded plastic equivalents including EPE, EPP and bioplastic EPS

    We encourage all relevant businesses to submit your insight and feedback:

  • ACT Single-Use Plastics Ban

    What’s banned?

    Banned from 1 July 2021:

    • Single-use plastic cutlery & stirrers
    • Foodware & cups made from expanded polystyrene (EPS)

     

     Banned from 1 July 2022:

    • Single-use plastic straws
    • Single-use plastic cotton buds
    • Oxo-degradable plastics

    It is also an offence to provide false/misleading info.

    Key notes

    • Compostable plastics:
      • banned for all items
    • Exemptions:
      • items in sealed pre-packaged food & bev before store
      • distribution outside the state
      • straws on request (not on display)
      • other specific exemptions apply eg. EPS gelato boxes, forensic/medical specific exemptions

    More information

    UPDATE: Stage 3 ban proposed

    The Government is now proposing to make regulations that would phase out additional single-use plastic items from 1 July 2023, including:

    • plastic microbeads in rinse-off personal care, cosmetic and cleaning products
    • EPS products and packaging
    • single-use plastic takeaway containers
    • single-use plastic plates and bowls
    • heavyweight and boutique plastic bags (greater than 35 microns thick).

    We encourage all relevant businesses to submit your insight and feedback:

  • QLD Single-Use Plastics Ban

    What’s banned?

    Banned from 1 September 2021:

    • Single-use plastic straws & stirrers
    • Single-use plastic cutlery
    • Single-use plastic plates
    • Single-use plastic bowls without lids
    • Food containers & cups made from expanded polystyrene (EPS)

    It is also an offence to provide false/misleading info.

    Key notes

    • Compostable plastics:
      • Australian certified compostable plastic items are permitted (AS4736 or AS5810). NRA does not recommend these given bans in other states.
    • Exemptions:
      • items in sealed pre-packaged food & bev before store
      • distribution outside the state
      • types of organisations are exempt from the ban (eg. medical) but retailers cannot provide straws
      • polymer-coated paper products

    More information

    UPDATE: QLD releases 5 year roadmap

    QLD is considering further bans from 1 September 2023, including:

    • cotton buds with plastic stems
    • expanded polystyrene loose packaging
    • plastic microbeads in rinseable personal care and cleaning products
    • non-reusable plastic shopping bags
    • the mass release of lighter than air balloons.

    Find out more >
    View the 5 year roadmap >

  • SA Single-Use Plastics Ban

    What’s banned?

    Banned from 1 March 2021:

    • Single-use plastic straws
    • Single-use plastic cutlery & stirrers

     Banned from 1 March 2022:

    • Foodware & cups made from expanded polystyrene (EPS)
    • Oxo-degradable plastics

    It is also an offence to provide false/misleading info.

    Key notes

    • Compostable plastics:
      • banned for all items
    • Exemptions:
      • items in sealed pre-packaged food & bev before store
      • distribution outside the state
      • straws on request (not on display)
      • other specific exemptions apply

    More information

  • VIC Single-Use Plastics Ban

    What’s banned?

    From 1 February 2023, the following items are banned in Victoria:

    • Single-use plastic straws and stirrers
    • Single-use plastic cutlery
    • Single-use plastic plates
    • Food and drink containers made from expanded polystyrene
    • Single-use plastic cotton buds

     

    It will also be an offence to provide false/misleading info.

     

    Key notes

    • Compostable plastics:
      • banned for all items
    • Reusability:
      • ‘Reusable’ items are defined as a plastic item that is manufactured: to be used for the same purpose on multiple occasions, and with a warranty (or other written representation) of at least one year.
    • Exemptions:
      • items in sealed pre-packaged food & bev before store
      • distribution outside the state
      • straws on request (not on display)
      • plastic-coated paper plates (exempt until Nov 2024)
      • other specific exemptions apply

    More information

  • TAS / Hobart Single-Use Plastics Ban

    Tasmania has not announced a single-use plastics ban.

    However, the City of Hobart implemented a ban in 2020 which includes:

    • single-use plastic takeaway packaging that is smaller than one litre or an A4 sheet of paper AND
    • is prepared onsite for immediate consumption

    Items include:

    • Plastic cutlery
    • Plastic straws
    • Plastic takeaway food containers and lids
    • Plastic lined noodle boxes
    • Plastic lined coffee cups
    • Plastic lids on takeaway cups
    • Plastic sandwich wedges
    • Sauce sachets (e.g. tomato, soy, tartare)

    Key notes

    • Compostable plastics:
      • certified compostable allowed for all items (Australian Standard AS4736, European Standard EN13432, United States of American standard D6400)
    • Exemptions:
      • items in sealed pre-packaged food & bev before store
      • distribution outside the council area

    More information

  • NT/ Darwin Single-Use Plastics Ban

    The Northern Territory has announced plans to implement a single-use plastics ban by 2025.

    However, the City of Darwin implemented a ban from use on council land from 1 January 2019 on single use plastic items including disposable coffee cups, smoothie cups, lids, straws, cutlery, stirrers, plates, bowls and takeaway containers.

    More information

  • New Zealand Single-Use Plastics Ban

    What’s banned?

    From 1 October 2022 it is illegal to provide, sell or manufacture the following plastic products in Aotearoa New Zealand:

    • Cotton buds with plastic stems or with synthetic fibre
    • Plastic drink stirrers
    • Oxo- and photo-degradable plastic products
    • Certain PVC food trays and containers
    • Polystyrene takeaway packaging
    • Expanded polystyrene food and beverage packaging

     

    From mid-2023, the following single-use items will be phased out

    • Plastic produce bags
    • Plastic straws
    • Plastic cutlery
    • Plastic plates & bowls
    • Plastic produce labels

    All other PVC and polystyrene food and drink packaging will be phased out by mid-2025.

    Key notes

    • Includes PVC trays and containers used for meat fish and poultry, fresh produce and baked goods only
    • Includes Expanded Polystyrene sold at retail, including food service, and form-fill-seal pre-packaged
    • Polystyrene takeaway packaging used to pack ready-to-eat food and beverages for immediate consumption, exempting pre-packaged off-site
    • Exemptions for cold chain transport and protective packaging EPS.
    • Exemptions for single-use cotton buds used for medical or scientific purposes.

    More information

Sustainability Resources & Submissions

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What we do

The National Retail Association Policy Team exists to help retail businesses succeed and grow within an ever-changing regulatory environment.

Our team works with a wide range of industry stakeholders – retailers, government, law enforcement, regulatory bodies, shopping centres, community groups, supporting associations and many more – to develop industry-wide policy platforms or positions on issues of importance to the Australian retail sector.

We work with all retailers across the retail and foodservice industry – regardless of size, category or business model – from the largest department chains to family-run pizza shops. Similar issues affect all retailers every day – such as retail crime, product safety and environmental legislation – and we all benefit from sharing intelligence and real-world experience.

We work actively with governments at international, federal, state and local levels to ensure the interests and needs of the Australian retail and services sectors are protected and promoted. Rather than running from inevitable regulatory change, we provide a bridge between retailers and government – facilitating the exchange of ideas and information which ultimately leads to more informed, commercially-aware outcomes for all parties.

We place real-world insight above all else, so we actively engage with retailers in stores, strip precincts and shopping centres.

We tackle the issues you can’t tackle alone.

Contact the Policy team

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