Business Implications of Australia’s Single-Use Plastic Ban

Josh Alston 08/12/2022 Waste Management
microplastic pollution australia

In recent years, the issue of plastic pollution has gained increasing attention from the general public and lawmakers alike. As a result, all Australian states and territories have now committed to the single-use plastic ban. 

This is a significant step forward in the fight against plastic pollution, as single-use plastic is a major source of marine debris. phasing out single-use plastics will help to reduce the amount of plastic entering our oceans, and it will also help to reduce the negative impacts of plastic pollution on marine life. 

In addition, phasing out single-use plastics will also help to reduce the number of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. This is because the production of plastics is a major source of emissions. By phasing out single-use plastic, we can help to make a real difference in the fight against climate change.

For businesses, the most immediate change will be the need to find alternative packaging materials. This may mean switching to paper or reusable bags or investing in more expensive options such as glass or biodegradable plastics. 

There will also be a need to update waste management and recycling systems to deal with the increased volume of different types of waste. For households, the changes will be less dramatic but still significant. Many people will need to learn to reuse or recycle materials that they are accustomed to simply throwing away.

Overall, the introduction of the single-use plastic ban is likely to cause big changes in the way waste is managed and recycled in Australia. It remains to be seen how well-prepared businesses and households are for these changes, but there is no doubt that they will have a significant impact on our country’s waste management systems.

How Western Australia is Phasing Out Plastic Pollution and Microplastics

To achieve its goal of reducing marine plastic pollution, Western Australia’s Plan for Plastics was designed to be implemented in a staged approach. 

Stage 1 of the plan phased out single-use items such as bowls, cups, plates, cutlery, stirrers, straws, and polystyrene food containers and concluded in October 2022. 

These items will be replaced with reusable or compostable alternatives. In addition, thicker plastic bags and helium balloon releases are also being phased out. 

Stage 2 of the plan, which is set to go into effect in 2023, expands the list of items to be phased out to include:

  • Expanded polystyrene packaging
  • Degradable plastics
  • Barrier/produce bags
  • Expanded polystyrene cups
  • Coffee cups and lids
  • Lids for cups
  • Bowls and takeaway food containers
  • Cotton buds with plastic shafts and;
  • Microbeads. 

By implementing this plan in a staged approach, the hope is that marine plastic pollution will be reduced in both the short and long term.

What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

A large reason behind the single-use plastic ban is the volume of plastic pollution that is reaching oceans and waterways – resulting in the creation of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a large area of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. It is sometimes referred to as the Pacific Trash Vortex. The patch is made up of two areas: the Western Garbage Patch, which is located near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, which is located in the mid-Pacific.

These areas are not solid masses of trash, but rather they are swirling vortexes of debris that are constantly shifting and moving. The patch is believed to be caused by the ocean currents known as the gyres. The gyres are massive systems of rotating currents that circulate water around the globe.

The garbage patch is thought to be caused by the interaction between the gyres and the wind patterns in the Pacific Ocean. Debris from all over the world is swept up into these massive systems and eventually ends up in the garbage patch.

The patch is believed to be composed of two types of debris: microplastics and macroplastics. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are less than five millimetres in size. These tiny pieces of plastic can come from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, detergents, and even car tires. 

Macroplastics are larger pieces of plastic that can be easily seen by the naked eye. These include items such as bottle caps, plastic bags, and fishing nets. It is estimated that there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans, and a large portion of this debris has ended up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

While there is no accurate way to measure the size of the patch, it is believed to be several hundred miles across. And because it is constantly shifting and moving, it is difficult to say exactly where it is located or how big it is. 

What we do know is that it contains a tremendous amount of waste and poses a serious threat to marine life. Animals can become entangled in plastics or mistake them for food. This can lead to starvation, injuries, and even death. 

In addition, plastics can release toxins into the water that can be harmful to marine life. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a growing problem that needs to be addressed urgently.

How Western Australia’s Plan for Plastics Impacts Businesses

Businesses that use large amounts of plastic packaging, such as supermarkets and fast food outlets, will be the most affected by these changes. Supermarkets will need to find alternative packaging materials or face a significant increase in costs, while fast food outlets will need to invest in reusable containers or face a decline in sales. 

While some businesses have been slow to adopt the changes required by the Plan for Plastics, many are now beginning to see the benefits of reducing their plastic usage. 

Not only does this help to protect the environment, but it can also lead to cost savings and improved customer satisfaction. In an increasingly competitive market, businesses that can successfully reduce their plastic usage are likely to be well-positioned for success.

The WA government has said that it is willing to work with businesses to help them transition to more sustainable packaging options, but the proposed changes will have a major impact on the way businesses operate in the state.

When single-use plastic is banned, businesses will need to find alternative materials. One option is to switch to paper products, which are compostable and biodegradable. However, paper can be more expensive than plastic, and it may not be as durable. 

Another option is to use reusable containers, such as glass or metal. These can be more costly upfront, but they will last longer and save money in the long run. 

Finally, businesses can also look into recycling programs for plastics. There are a variety of ways to recycle plastics, and many companies are already doing this on a small scale. By working with recycling programs, businesses can help to reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills.

Plastic Waste in Australia

Plastic Waste in Australia Infographic - Waste2Resources
Plastic Waste in Australia (Infographic)

What This Means for Waste Management and Waste Removal Companies

As more and more people become aware of the devastating impact that single-use plastic has on the environment, there is an increasing push to ban these items. 

This presents a challenge for waste management and waste removal companies, who will need to find new ways to collect and dispose of these materials. 

One solution is to invest in recycling infrastructure. This will allow for the collection of single-use plastic which can then be turned into new products. 

Another option is to switch to biodegradable packaging. This material is made from plants and other renewable resources, and it will break down naturally over time. By making these changes, waste management and waste removal companies can help to reduce the amount of plastic pollution in our environment. Other ways they will need to adapt include:

1. Cardboard Recycling 

Waste management companies need to take a closer look at cardboard recycling. With the recent ban on single-use plastic, there has been a surge in the use of cardboard packaging. Cardboard is a recyclable material, but it can be difficult to recycle if it is not properly sorted. 

Waste management companies need to ensure that they have the proper facilities and personnel in place to handle an increase in cardboard recycling. In addition, they need to educate the public on the importance of sorting their recyclables correctly. 

2. Commingled Recycling

Commingled recycling is the practice of collecting all recyclable materials together in one bin, without sorting them by type. This system is not well suited to dealing with the variety of materials that will be generated by a ban on single-use plastic. 

As a result, waste management companies need to look at transitioning to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) system. In this system, recyclables are sorted by type before being sent for processing. 

This allows for a more efficient recycling process and reduces the chance of contamination that can occur when different types of materials are mixed. MRFs can also deal more effectively with new types of materials that are introduced as the ban on single-use plastic come into effect. 

3. Ensuring Bins Are Correctly Coloured and Labelled

With the recent ban on single-use plastic, waste management companies need to be extra careful with labelling to ensure that all materials are properly sorted. The correct bin stickers and colours are essential for materials to be recycled correctly. 

In Australia, the government has set a national colour scheme for recycling bins and posters. Red is for general waste, blue is for cardboard and paper, and yellow is for commingled recycling. By following this colour scheme, waste management companies can help to ensure that all materials are properly sorted and recycled.

Industry Response

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) is calling for a nationally harmonised approach to phasing out single-use plastic. 

With all jurisdictions across Australia focused on reducing plastic waste, WMRR believes that a coordinated approach is necessary to ensure that both businesses and communities can achieve their goals. 

WMRR’s proposal includes several measures that would help to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced each year, including an increase in recycling and reuse, as well as the introduction of mandatory product stewardship schemes for certain types of plastics. 

The association is confident that these measures would lead to a significant reduction in the amount of plastic waste generated each year, ultimately benefiting both the environment and the economy.

“It is pleasing to see the work that states are doing to stem the scourge of unnecessary single-use items, and WMRR welcomes the Queensland government’s five (5)-year roadmap,” WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said.

“We also congratulate the government and the National Retailers Association for the work in the Roadmap to replace single-use items with reuse items that include recycled content. We need more commitment to this nationally.

“It is important that as states and territories continue in their efforts to phase out single-use plastic, governments also work towards developing nationally consistent strategies to mitigate any risk of confusion to communities and businesses. 

“We also need them to include real targets for replacement items that include recycled content so we can grow and invest with certainty in infrastructure and systems that support the ban. If we get this right, it’ll mean more jobs for Australians.

“Now that we have a new federal government, Australia needs to develop its own robust plastics pact, like the European Union, that brings together all jurisdictions and businesses across the entire plastics value chain to drive greater cross-border cooperation, market demand, and harmonisation,” Ms Sloan said.  

How to Give Feedback on Western Australia’s Plan for Plastics Stage 2

There are several ways to participate in the consultation process, including an online survey, attending an information session, or submitting written feedback. The key questions that Western Australia is seeking feedback on our:

  • How can we reduce our reliance on single-use plastic? 
  • How can we increase the recycling and reprocessing of plastic waste? 
  • What infrastructure is needed to support these changes? 
  • How can we educate and engage people in these changes? 

All feedback received will be considered by the Western Australian government as it develops its final Plan for Plastics Stage 2.

Related article: What Can Go in a Skip Bin and What Can’t?

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  • Josh Alston

    Josh is a reporter, editor and copywriter. Specialise in corporate writing, politics, innovation and stories that generate human interest and engagement.

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