Single-use Plastic Ban (ACT) | Armstrong Legal

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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Single-use Plastic Ban (ACT)


As of 1 July 2021, the supply of single-use plastic cutlery and stirrers, and expanded polystyrene takeaway food containers and cups, was banned in the Australian Capital Territory. The ban was implemented under the Plastic Reduction Act 2021. From July 1, 2022, the supply of single-use plastic straws, fruit and vegetable “barrier bags” and all plastic products made from degradable plastic will be phased out.

Legislation

The Act is designed to reduce the use of plastic in the ACT, reduce the impact of plastic on the environment, and reduce the impact of plastic on waste management and resource recovery systems.

A “prohibited plastic product” means:

  • a single-use polystyrene container for serving food or a drink;
  • a single-use plastic drink stirrer;
  • single-use plastic cutlery (including sporks, splayds and chopsticks);
  • a single-use plastic shopping bag;
  • a non-compostable degradable plastic product prescribed by regulation.

This definition does not include an “integrated packaging item” such as a pre-packed salad that has a fork included, or a yoghurt tub that has a fold-out spoon contained in the lid.

“Supply” a plastic product means to provide, by way of sale or otherwise, a plastic product to someone. It includes providing a plastic product to a person as a container or packaging for another product, or for use with, or in relation to another product that is provided to the person. Examples include giving a customer a plastic take-away container to use to take home uneaten food.

Product exemptions

Short-term exemptions are in place for items where there is no practical plastic alternative available. These items include:

  • soup spoons that can hold 18-25ml of liquid, such as laksa spoons);
  • gelato tubs made of polystyrene that can hold 500ml to 2 litres;
  • straws, while exemptions are designed for people who need to use straws.

Business or organisation exemptions

Detainee or mental health facilities are exempt from the ban on single-use plastic items until 1 July 2022, while a trial is conducted to find safe alternatives.

Offences

A person who supplies a prohibited plastic product faces a maximum penalty of 50 penalty units ($9000). If the person intentionally or recklessly falsely represents that the product is not a prohibited plastic product when they supply it, they face the same penalty.

If a person is given a notice by an authorised officer to dispose of a prohibited plastic product in a certain way within a certain time, and the person does not comply, they face a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units ($3200).

Enforcement

The Act allows the appointment of officers to enforce it. On exercising a power, the officer must show their identity card, which includes their photo and the card’s date of issue and expiry.

An authorised officer can:

  • at any reasonable time, enter premises that the public is entitled to use or that are open to the public;
  • at any time, enter premises with the occupier’s consent;
  • at any time, enter premises not on public land if they reasonably believe an offence is being, is likely to be, or has just been committed;
  • enter premises in accordance with a search warrant.

An exception can apply where premises are also used for residential purposes.

On entering a premises, the officer can, for example:

  • examine and copy, or take extracts from documents relating to a contravention;
  • take photos, audio, video or other recordings;
  • require the occupier to answer questions or produce documents;
  • seize anything they reasonably believe is connected to an offence and there is a risk the thing may be concealed, lost, or destroyed; or used to commit or continue to commit an offence.

Public events

The ACT Government can declare that a single-use plastic product other than a prohibited plastic product must not be supplied at a “declared public event”. The declaration must be made at least 3 months before the event, there must be no alternative product available to the event organisers, and the declaration must not have an unreasonable impact on the event. If a person supplies a declared single-use plastic product at a declared public event, face a maximum penalty of 50 penalty units ($9000).

Banned shopping bags

Plastic shopping bags have been banned in the ACT since 2011. The ban includes bags marked as recyclable or reusable.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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