Plastic ban FAQs

We are exploring opportunities to assist small businesses and community organisations manage stock leftover after the ban on the supply of lightweight plastic bags (35 microns or less) begins on 1 June 2022.

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 will also be banned, including those made from Australian certified compostable plastic.

Dedicated resources for businesses are available at: https://dpe.mysocialpinpoint.com.au/plastics-ban-nsw/informationforbusiness/
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 sustainability@nra.net.au

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. 

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)

How do I get rid of existing stock?

We are exploring opportunities to help small businesses and community organisations manage existing stock leftover after the ban begins on 1 June 2022. 

Is the EPA picking up my existing stock?

No, the EPA is not directly collecting existing stock.

We will hold the registration until a suitable provider is found. By registering your existing stock, you agree that we can disclose this information to an external service provider who may contact you to arrange recycling of any existing stock.  If this does not eventuate, we will notify you, and you may need to donate or dispose of existing stock.

Is the EPA reimbursing or compensating businesses?

We will not be purchasing 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?

We 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 a recycling service becomes available, but you cannot continue to supply the prohibited items. If a 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. 

We will also consider registrations from not-for-profit, sporting and community service organisations that employ less than 20 people. 

Can I give existing stock to charity?

You can’t donate or give away stock to charity, sporting, education, not for profit or community organisations. These organisations will not be 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 the 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
  • The 2025 targets are
    • 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging. 
    • 70% of plastic packaging being recycled or composted. 
    • 50% of average recycled content included in packaging (revised from 30% in 2020).
    • The phase out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging. 

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.