Plastic ban FAQs
Have leftover stock? If it’s banned, don’t bin it! Register your items for recycling with the Great Plastic Rescue.
Compliance related to existing stock of lightweight plastic bags
What is the EPA doing to enforce the ban?
We are committed to taking a fair and considered approach to regulation and will consider all circumstances when deciding on the most appropriate compliance action.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ response to non-compliance and penalties are not the only tool or necessarily the first tool to enforce compliance.
In each case, the approach taken will depend on the context and specific circumstances of the incidence. For example, the EPA will look at what steps you have taken to prepare for the new requirements and if you have made a genuine effort to comply.
If you are found to be non-compliant, then the scale of the non-compliance and the willingness of the business to become compliant will also be considered. Those that are unresponsive or choose not to take steps to comply are more likely to face stronger scrutiny.
What type of bags are banned?
Lightweight plastic bags (35 microns or less) are banned.
Lightweight bags made from biodegradable, compostable, or bio-plastics are also banned, including those made from Australian certified compostable plastic.
Dedicated resources for businesses are available at: https://dpe.mysocialpinpoint.com.au/plastics-ban-nsw
This includes a guide for businesses with images of compliant and non-compliant types of bags.
Businesses can also get advice suited to their unique situation from the NRA’s toll-free hotline on 1800 844 946 and email at email@example.com.
Does the ban apply to my business?
You cannot supply a prohibited item in NSW while carrying on a business. This includes retail businesses, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, community groups, not-for-profit organisations or charities.
Can I use up the stock I have already, if I bought it before 1 June?
You cannot continue to supply lightweight plastic bags (35 microns or less) after the ban begins on 1 June 2022, even if you purchased it before this date. This includes supplying lightweight plastic bags to another business, or offering them to a customer.
Supply of a banned item includes to (whether a fee is charged or not):
- sell, supply, resupply or distribute
- receive or possess for the purpose of supply
- offer to supply (such as in advertising, websites and brochures)
- display, provide or make the item available to a person (such as via on counter access)
What is the Great Plastic Rescue?
The Great Plastic Rescue is a campaign run by the Civic Futures Lab, that has been launched to support wholesalers, distributors, retailers, businesses and not-for-profit groups manage their existing stock of banned items. Their mission is to give clean, unused surplus stock a new life through their rescue, recycling and remanufacturing program.
Businesses can register their unused, banned plastic items and the Great Plastic Rescue team will work with you to collect and recycle existing stock. Participation is voluntary and provides an alternate solution to landfilling banned items.
The EPA has contracted Civic Futures Lab to run this campaign in NSW.
How do I get rid of existing stock?
Small businesses and community organisations can register with the Great Plastic Rescue to recycle their existing stock leftover after the ban begins on 1 June 2022. The Great Plastic Rescue will organise for these items to be reprocessed, recycled and remanufactured into new products.
Larger organisations can search for a recycler using the business recycling database.
Who is picking up my existing stock?
The Great Plastic Rescue team will contact you to arrange collection of your existing stock. The Great Plastic Rescue team have designed a range of methods to facilitate collection and receipt of your leftover stock and will be in-touch to discuss the most suitable option for your location and volume.
The EPA has contracted Civic Futures Lab to coordinate collections as part of The Great Plastic Rescue campaign. The EPA is not directly collecting existing stock.
Will I be reimbursed or compensated?
No, we will not be reimbursing or compensating businesses for existing stock. If you have large amounts of stock, speak to your suppliers. They may accept returns or exchanges.
What types of bags can I register?
The Great Plastic Rescue (Civic Futures Lab) are only accepting registrations for lightweight plastic bags (35 microns or less) that are prohibited from 1 June 2022.
Once I’ve registered am I exempt from the bans?
No, registration does not give you exemption from the bans. By registering, you can store or hold on to the existing stock until the Great Plastic Rescue (Civic Futures Lab) can arrange for it to be collected, but you cannot continue to supply the prohibited items. If a collection and recycling option is not available you will need to dispose of existing stock.
Fines can be issued if you supply a prohibited item.
Who is eligible to register for existing stock collection?
Registrations from small business will be prioritised. A small business is defined by the NSW Small Business Commissioner as an actively trading, unincorporated or incorporated business that employs less than 20 people.
Registrations from not-for-profit, sporting and community service organisations that employ less than 20 people will also be considered.
Larger organisations can search for a recycler using the business recycling database.
Can I give existing stock to charity?
No, you can’t donate or give away banned stock to charity, sporting, education, not for profit or community organisations. These organisations are not allowed to supply the bags to their customers either.
Dumping existing stock on charities adds to the already significant issue of illegally dumped, damaged and poor conditioned donations which costs charities millions of dollars a year for clean-up and disposal and detracts from their core works. Illegal dumping at charity bins and shop fronts can attract fines.
Can I repackage or relabel banned bags as another product?
No, if you are supplying lightweight plastic bags as part of carrying on a business this is still an offence, even if they are re-labelled as another product. (e.g. relabelling lightweight singlet bags and supplying them as bin-liners, or nappy bags etc.).
Are businesses entitled to a refund or exchange from their suppliers?
Whether businesses are entitled to refunds or exchanges would depend on what their contract says, or the goodwill of their supplier.
For businesses-to-businesses disputes, you can seek advice from the Office of Small Business Commissioner.
For business to consumer disputes, you can seek advice from the Office of Fair Trading.
What is industry doing to transition away from plastic bags?
Major retailers have flagged their intention to pursue a national, voluntary phase out of heavyweight bags using virgin plastic over the next 2 to 3 years and we will monitor the success of this action before determining whether a future mandatory phase out is needed. A voluntary national code is being developed to phase-out heavyweight plastic bags. or to only use heavyweight plastic bags with more than 80 per cent recycled content. We will monitor the progress of this code.
Industry is also working towards the 2025 National Packaging Targets to deliver a new and sustainable approach to packaging. They apply to all packaging that is made, used and sold in Australia. The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) is the organisation charged by governments to facilitate the delivery of the 2025 Targets: https://apco.org.au/national-packaging-targets
Can I buy or supply bags 36 microns and over?
Bags with a thickness of 36 microns or more can still be supplied after 1 June 2022, but may be subject to future phase out. We will be reviewing heavyweight plastic bags in 2024 (3 years after the legislation was passed) to determine whether a phase out is appropriate at that time.
When are heavyweight bags being banned?
The NSW Plastics Action Plan lists heavyweight ‘multiuse’ plastic bags as an item for review for consideration to phase out in future. We will review these items and the available alternatives in 2024 (3 years from the passage of legislation) to determine whether a phase out is appropriate at that time.
What else is being banned?
Further plastic bans will follow from 1 November 2022, 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.
Businesses can contact the National Retail Association for advice on 1800 844 946 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For help to recycle leftover stock, contact the Great Plastic Rescue.
For all other enquiries, contact the EPA on 131 555 or email email@example.com.
If you need an interpreter to assist you, please call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask them to call the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) on 131 555. The interpreter will then help you with interpretation.