Frequently asked questions about the plastics bans
The NSW Government has committed to banning certain problematic plastics, such as single-use plastics, and addressing the problem of plastic waste.
The following single-use plastic items are banned:
- lightweight plastic bags with handles, other than a barrier bag, that are 35 microns or less in thickness at any part of the bag.
Lightweight bags made from biodegradable plastics, compostable plastics, or bio-plastics are also banned, including those made from Australian certified compostable plastic.
- single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery (including chopsticks and sporks), plates, bowls (excluding those with spill-proof lids) and cotton buds
- expanded polystyrene (EPS) food service ware, including cups, clamshells, plates and bowls
- certain rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads.
Items made from biodegradable plastics, compostable plastics, or bio-plastics are banned. This includes those made from Australian certified compostable plastic.
The bans do not currently apply to the following:
- single-use plastic barrier bags such as:
- produce bags and deli bags
- bin liners
- human or animal waste bags
- bags used to contain items for medical purposes.
- single use plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery that are:
- serving utensils such as salad servers or tongs
- an integrated part of the packaging used to seal or contain food or beverages or included within or attached to that packaging, through a machine-automated process (such as a straw attached to a juice box or a spoon included with a yogurt).
- single-use plastic bowls and plates that are:
- designed or intended to have a spill-proof lid, such as those used for a takeaway soup.
- an integrated part of the packaging used to seal or contain food or beverages, or are included within or attached to that packaging, through a machine-automated process (such as a plastic plate included in a frozen meal).
- used for medical, scientific or forensic purposes, in certain circumstances, as set out in an exemption granted by the EPA.
- made of paper or cardboard but have a plastic lining or coating.
- Expanded polystyrene (EPS) food service items that are:
- fresh produce trays such as those used for raw meat and seafood.
- packaging, including consumer and business-to-business packaging and transport container.
- an integrated part of the packaging used to seal or contain food or beverages, or are including within or attached to that packaging, through a machine-automated process (such as an EPS noodle cup).
- Single-use plastic cotton buds that:
- are reusable cotton bud sticks, such as those with replaceable ends.
- shave wooden, bamboo or paper stems.
The bans affect everyone… businesses, organisations, and consumers. We all have a role to play in removing plastic waste from our environment.
Consumers no longer receive banned plastic items when purchasing goods, including take-away food.
Alternatives to banned items may be provided by businesses and organisations or, ideally, consumers can bring their own.
If consumers still have banned single-use plastic items at home once the bans come into effect, they can continue to use them for personal use but they cannot supply them for the operation of a business or organisation such as a sporting or community club.
The banned items have been chosen because they are highly littered and have readily available sustainable alternatives.
A phase out of these items will prevent almost 2.7 billion items of plastic litter from entering our natural environment and waterways over the next 20 years.
The banned items are largely consistent with a list of items for phase out agreed to by the federal, state and territory environment ministers in April 2021.
Most items made from compostable plastic and bioplastic do not biodegrade unless they are specifically treated in a commercial composting facility. This means that they do not biodegrade when littered in the environment or when sent to landfill, where they can create just as big a problem as conventional plastic.
The supply of compostable and bioplastic straws, cutlery, stirrers, bowls and plates is not allowed under the NSW ban even if they are labelled as 'plastic-free'.
If an item looks or feels similar to plastic, but claims to be ‘plastic free’, ‘biodegradable’, ‘compostable', ‘degradable’, or ‘plant based’, it is likely to contain bioplastic.
These items are commonly made from or labelled as:
- plant-based bioplastic
- PLA (polylactic acid)
- CPLA (crystallised polylactic acid)
- starch-based plastic
- compostable plastic
- Australian-certified compostable plastic (including AS 4736 and AS 5810)
- biodegradable plastic
- degradable plastic
- green-certified plastic
- corn-based plastic.
Note: Logos, labelling or product claims are not proof of compliance. It is an offence to provide false or misleading information about banned items, including compostable plastics.
Yes. After consulting extensively with the members of the disability and retail community the NSW Government has issued a single-use plastic straw exemption for people with a medical need or disability.
To ensure access for people with a disability or medical need:
- individuals or organisations who serve food or drinks, registered charities and local government offices will be allowed to provide a single plastic straw on request. Staff do not have to ask for a reason, and are not encouraged to do so for privacy reasons, however straws must not be on display or accessible to customers without request.
- straws can be given out at health facilities such as medical facilities (GPs and hospitals), dentists, nursing homes, childcare centres, and patient transport.
- straws can be purchased from online suppliers, pharmacies and chemists, manufacturers, producers and wholesalers.
The EPA has granted an exemption until 31 October 2024 for the supply of plastic single-use cotton buds (including plastic single-use cotton swabs) and plastic single-use bowls for medical, scientific and forensic purposes in certain circumstances.
See exemptions for more information.
Single-use paper and cardboard bowls and plates with a plastic lining or coating
The EPA has issued a temporary two-year exemption until 31 October 2024 for plates and bowls that are made of paper or cardboard but have a plastic lining or coating. This includes products like takeaway cardboard bowls without lids and printed or coloured paper ‘party’ plates and bowls.
The exemption along with detailed guidance for individuals and suppliers is available on the NSW Environment Protection Authority website.
The ban applies to certain rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads, such as face and body cleansers, exfoliants and masks, shampoo, conditioner, hair dyes, and toothpaste.
If you are concerned about microbeads in products you supply, look for the following commonly used ingredients:
- polyethylene (PE)
- polypropylene (PP)
- polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
- polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
- nylon (PA)
If in doubt, ask your supplier to provide proof that their products do not contain plastic microbeads (particles less than 5 mm wide).
No. It is an offence to supply lightweight plastic bags, single-use plastic straws, cutlery, stirrers, plates and bowls, expanded polystyrene food service items, single-use cotton buds or personal care products containing plastic microbeads in NSW.
This is regardless of whether a fee is charged, the item is given out for free or the supply of the item is incidental to, or forms part of, the supply of another product.
The bans apply to anyone while carrying on an activity for commercial purposes.
- Retail or hospitality businesses, such as restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, takeaway food outlets, party supply stores, discount stores, supermarkets, market stalls, online stores, and any other retailer must not provide these items to customers.
- Manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and wholesalers must not supply banned items within or into NSW. Penalties are doubled for this sector.
The bans also apply to groups while carrying on an activity for charitable, sporting, education or community purposes.
For example, community groups, government bodies and not-for-profits, such as charities, welfare services, religious bodies, education providers, and fundraising events must not supply banned items. This includes items used as part of a service, for regular activities, or during events or fundraising activities.
If your business operates across different states, such as a national business or website selling partyware, you need to ensure that consumers in NSW are not supplied with banned items.
Ensure websites, catalogues and brochures displaying prohibited items clearly indicate that an item on the banned list is not available for supply in NSW.
For example, you could change your website settings to limit the products that NSW customers can purchase or add a statement on each banned product listing indicating that it is not available in NSW.
Yes, but while it is not an offence to supply a banned item to a person outside NSW, we recommend checking for similar bans in other jurisdictions. Banned items should not be kept onsite after the ban date unless they are intended for supply outside NSW.
It is an offence to receive, possess, advertise or display a banned item for the purposes of supply in NSW.
While the bans on the supply of single-use plastic items will ensure that there is significantly less plastic waste in our landfills and litter in our environment, consumers can do their part by reducing overall demand for plastic items.
Every time you use a reusable shopping bag, you are reducing the amount of plastic in circulation. That means less plastic that must be disposed of or recycled in the future. Instead of just taking your reusable bags to the supermarket, consider taking them with you when shopping for new shoes or clothes as well.
The choices you make today will make a big difference to our environment in the future.
The NSW Government is working with businesses and organisations to ensure they understand their obligations.
We are the regulator and will monitor and enforce the bans. We have a broad range of enforcement tools including the ability to issue penalty notices, prosecute for offences and to issue compliance notices to suppliers or occupiers where we reasonably suspects a person has supplied, is supplying or is likely to supply a banned item.
It is an offence to fail to comply with a notice issued by the EPA. It is also an offence to provide false or misleading information (by act or omission) about the supply of a banned plastic item.
Fines may apply if you are caught supplying a banned item, with a maximum court penalty of 500 penalty units ($55,000) for a corporation and 100 penalty units ($11,000) for an individual.
Maximum court penalties are doubled for businesses found to be supplying these items while carrying on a business as a manufacturer, producer, wholesaler or distributor, with penalties of up to 1,000 penalty units ($110,000) for a corporation or 200 penalty units ($22,000) for an individual.
Failure to comply with a Stop Notice, issued by the EPA may result in maximum court penalties of up to $55,000 for individuals and $275,000 for corporations. As above, these penalties may be doubled for manufacturers, producers, wholesalers and distributors.
You can find more information on fines and offences in the Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021.
Yes. It is an offence to provide false or misleading information (by act or omission) about the supply of a banned item.
To comply, we recommend businesses:
- do not keep any prohibited stock on-site after the bans date unless they intend to supply outside NSW
- ensure websites, catalogues and brochures displaying prohibited items clearly indicate that the banned item is not available for supply in NSW. This is especially important if you operate across multiple states (such as national businesses or websites selling partyware) to ensure you are not supplying prohibited items in NSW.
- improve your website settings to prevent prohibited items from being displayed for sale when viewed in NSW or include a statement on each banned product listing clearly and unambiguously indicating that the item is not available in NSW.
A business should undertake its own due diligence to ensure the products it supplies comply with the bans. This may include confirming with your supplier whether a product is made from, or contains any form of polymer, plastic or compostable plastic or confirming any plastic bags with handles you supply are more than 35 microns thick at all parts of the bag.