About the plastics bans

A range of single-use problematic plastics is now banned in NSW.

The plastics bans will prevent nearly 2.7 billion plastic items from entering the state’s coastal, marine and bushland environments over the next 20 years.

The NSW Plastics Action Plan was released in June 2021. It highlights the phase-out of certain single-use plastics as a key action, with a timetable for phasing out the most littered plastic items. The Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021 (PRCE Act) was made in November 2021 to enable this to occur.

The legislation also provides a comprehensive framework that helps NSW transition towards a circular economy where materials and resources are valued and kept in the productive economy while creating jobs and protecting the environment and the community.

Why single-use plastics are being banned

Plastic is a useful invention. It doesn’t break like glass, it’s much lighter and less expensive to manufacture than alternatives, and it can made into a seemingly endless array of shapes and sizes. Single-use plastic items, designed to be used once and then thrown away, are cheap and convenient, but they pose an enormous threat to our environment. They take thousands of years to decompose and in the process cause great harm to our natural environment and wildlife.

Consumers do a very good job when it comes to sorting recyclable plastics from waste destined for landfill. However in NSW:

  • only 12% of plastics are being recycled
  • plastic items make up 60% of all litter in NSW.

The solution to this problem is to use less plastic.

Key facts about the NSW Government single-use plastics ban

  • The NSW Government aims to reduce plastic litter items by 30% by 2025.
  • Lightweight plastic shopping bags with handles (35 microns or less in thickness) have been banned in NSW since 1 June 2022.
  • From 1 November 2022 bans apply in NSW to single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls (without lids) and cotton buds, expanded polystyrene foodware and cups, and rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads.
  • The bans follow the Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021 passed in November 2021.
  • The bans apply even if the banned items are made from biodegradable plastic, compostable plastic, or bio-plastics.
  • In NSW, single-use plastic items and packaging make up 60% of all litter.
  • Around 575 million plastic items were littered in NSW in 2019. Much of these were single-use items, such as plastic bags, straws and cutlery.
  • Over time, these items break into smaller pieces of plastic. They can be ingested by wildlife, killing or injuring them, and can enter the human food chain.
  • Plastics never completely degrade. Over years, they break into tiny pieces called microplastics. Microplastics are the multi-coloured pieces of plastic that can be found in the environment (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
  • The banned items are littered at approximately 20 times the rate of other plastics.
  • Approximately 40% of these littered items end up in marine environments and waterways.
  • Of the 16,000 submissions the Government received when consulting on the future bans of plastics in NSW, 98% supported phasing out single-use plastics.
  • Businesses and community organisations can access resources to help understand the bans.
  • The NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041 and the NSW Plastics Action Plan are backed by a $356 million investment over 5 years (from 1 July 2022). This investment includes new programs and initiatives that minimise waste, values our resources, decarbonises our economy and kickstarts the transition to a circular economy. Find out more and apply.
  • The phasing out of certain single-use plastics is part of the NSW Plastics Action Plan, which sets out actions to better manage plastics and reduce their impact on the environment throughout their lifecycle – from production and consumption through to disposal, recovery and recycling.