Education on lightweight plastic bag ban the focus for compliance in NSW

Single-use plastics are on the way out with a ban on lightweight plastic bags from 1 June 2022 following laws passed by the NSW Government six months ago.

Businesses in NSW will no longer be able to give customers lightweight plastic bags from 1 June or to have them in stock.

The EPA has heard that some retailers may still hold stock of lightweight plastic bags and are seeking advice on how to comply with the law and what to do about them.

We are focused firstly on awareness and education for retailers and want to support them in making the switch to more sustainable alternatives, so they can be compliant with the new rules.

We have partnered with the National Retail Association which has engaged extensively with thousands of retailers across the state this year about the upcoming changes and what business needs to do, to comply.

We are committed to a fair and considered approach to regulation and that’s why we are focused firstly on awareness and education. We understand there may be different circumstances for different businesses and there is no ‘one size fits all’ response.

For example, we will look at whether a retailer has taken steps to prepare for the new requirements and made a genuine effort to comply. We will consider all circumstances when deciding on the most appropriate regulatory action.

We know that while a number of businesses have switched to non-plastic alternatives, some have existing stock as a result of unforeseen issues such as the lockdowns from Covid-19 resulting in the inability to rundown existing stock as intended.

We encourage small businesses to get in touch with the National Retail Association on strategies to help transition to compliant stock. Where possible, we will work with businesses to identify avenues for recycling.

While we are in the introduction phase of the new bans it is only where we find suppliers being recalcitrant that we are likely to consider using stronger enforcement approaches.

Retailer assistance

To help retailers adjust to the change, the NSW Government has partnered with the National Retail Association to run an education campaign for small businesses across NSW showing how they can phase out and replace single-use plastics.

Small businesses can also register with us for help to recycle excess banned lightweight plastic bag stock

What is being banned

Plastic bags banned from 1 June

  • lightweight plastic bags of 35 microns or less (including compostable and bioplastic alternatives)

Plastics bags not banned from 1 June include:

  • thicker plastic bags over 35 microns (such as bags at some supermarkets and boutique stores)
  • barrier bags such as produce and deli bags, bin liners, compost caddy liners, nappy bags and pet-waste bags

Further plastic bans from 1 November will see the following items removed from circulation:

  • single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls, and cotton buds (including compostable alternatives to these items)
  • expanded polystyrene food ware and cups
  • rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads

We encourage you to consider the impact of this on your business now and to use up existing stock wherever possible.

The problem with plastics

The ban follows the passing of the Plastics Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021 in November last year by the NSW Government. Its positive impact on our State’s environment will be profound.

Currently single-use plastic items and packaging make up 60 per cent of all litter in NSW. Single-use plastics remain in our environment for years and then eventually break down into microplastics. These plastic bans alone will remove almost 2.7 billion items from entering the NSW environment over the next 20 years. That’s billions of plastic items no longer going into our lakes, streams, beaches, oceans, and landfills.

Compostable and bioplastic alternatives are also captured by the ban because they are just as much of an environmental problem as traditional plastic. That’s because these so-called alternatives do not biodegrade unless they are specially treated in an industrial composting facility, so inevitably when littered they cause exactly the same problems.

Further plastic bans

Other plastic bans will follow from November 1, which will see the following items removed from circulation

  • single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls, and cotton buds
  • expanded polystyrene food ware and cups
  • rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads

More information

See more information about the NSW plastics ban

Retailers, suppliers, community groups and not-for-profit organisations can contact the National Retail Association for advice on the NSW ban on 1800 844 946 or email sustainability@nra.net.au.