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South Australia Moves to Ban Plastic Straws and Cutlery

They're about to become the first state to outlaw single-use plastic items.

by Gavin Butler
08 July 2019, 3:57am

Image via Flickr user karen2754, CC licence 2.0

Plastic straws, cutlery, and stirrers will soon be banned in South Australia, as the government prepares to draft legislation outlawing the single-use items across the state. The bill will be introduced to parliament in 2020, according to SA environment minister David Speirs, and will focus on straws, cutlery, and stirrers as a priority before potentially moving on to ban takeaway polystyrene containers and cups, The Guardian reports.

The planned legislation will make South Australia the first Australian state or territory to outlaw the single-use items. In 2009, it similarly became the first state or territory to ban lightweight plastic bags.

“We led the way with our container-deposit scheme, we were ahead of the pack on plastic bag reform, and now we will lead the country on single-use plastics,” said Speirs, in conversation with The Advertiser. “The community has called for swift action on single-use plastic products. Social and corporate action is already under way on some of these items, and there are readily [available] alternatives.”

It’s estimated that South Australians collectively use about 255 million plastic straws and 210 million plastic-lined takeaway coffee cups every year.

Speirs said “further consideration” was needed before taking legislative action against plastic bags, coffee cups, and takeaway containers, but noted that business groups would be given sufficient warning about impending bans in order to provide adequate time for transitioning. The SA government will start by trialling what it has called voluntary “plastic free precincts”, which will be led by local businesses.

While the landmark legislation will no doubt be celebrated by environmental activists around Australia, there are some concerns among disability advocates that an outright ban could be “harmful” since “alternatives to plastic straws won’t work for people with disability”. A report released by South Australia’s Green Industries department on Saturday said the proposed laws would “carefully [consider] the needs of people with a disability”. Other countries such as the UK—who announced plans for a nationwide ban on straws, cotton buds, and drink stirrers earlier this year—have allowed exceptions for people with a medical needs or disabilities, stating that plastic straws and other materials will be made available to them upon request.

Sarah Hanson-Young, a federal Greens senator from South Australia, commended the Liberal government for “listening to the people and moving beyond single-use plastics”—further noting that the Greens would pursue a nationwide ban in the Senate in the coming months.

“It’s well past time to act on this issue,” she said. “With the extinction crisis looming, we know reducing pollution is an important step.”

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