Plastic single-use cotton buds and plastic single-use bowls-exemption guidance

Guidance on who may supply and access plastic single-use cotton buds and plastic single-use bowls, and under what circumstances.

From 1 November 2022, the supply of plastic single-use cotton buds and bowls* will be banned in NSW. This means that it will be an offence to supply a plastic single-use cotton bud or plastic single-use bowl while carrying on a business in NSW, except as set out in the Plastic Single-Use Cotton Buds and Plastic Single-Use Bowls Exemption 2022.

Plastic single-use cotton buds and bowls can continue to be supplied where used for medical, scientific or forensic purposes, subject to the conditions of the exemption.

* Plastic single-use bowls designed or intended to have a spill-proof lid, such as those used for a takeaway soup, are not currently banned, but will be reviewed for phase-out in the future.

The supply of plastic-lined paper bowls is not banned until 1 November 2024. Read more about the temporary plastic-lined paper plates and bowls exemption.

Review period

The EPA intends to review this exemption after two years (1 November 2024), but may still review it at any time. The exemption can be varied or revoked by a notice published in the NSW Government Gazette.

During these two years, we suggest suppliers consider actively monitoring for suitable alternatives, trialling potential alternatives and transitioning to suitable reusable or sustainable alternatives.

  • Plastic single-use bowls can be supplied where all of the following conditions are met:
    • the supply is to a person who uses the item for medical, scientific or forensic purposes only, or to enable supply to a person who uses the items for these purposes (e.g. a distributor who supplies to hospitals)
    • the supply is not for food or beverage service to people (including for food service in medical settings such as to patients in hospital wards, hospital cafeterias or in aged-care facilities – this is not permitted)
    • the supply is not for beauty or cosmetic purposes or similar
    • the plastic single-use bowls are not for sale, or made available for sale, to a member of the public
    • the supply is not to a person who would sell, or make available for sale, the bowls to members of the public (e.g. a retail pharmacy, supermarket, department store, convenience store or online marketplace), and
    • the bowl is not made of expanded polystyrene (EPS).
  • Examples of uses for medical, scientific or forensic purposes include use by a:
    • hospital in a surgical setting where a sterile bowl is needed to hold organs during transplant procedures
    • veterinary clinic for use as a water bowl for an animal in isolation, where needed to help control the spread of infection or disease
    • dental clinic during a surgical procedure
    • scientific or forensic laboratory where a sterile bowl is needed to collect samples to avoid contamination.
  • If you are a manufacturer, producer or wholesaler, you may only supply plastic single-use bowls if you have undertaken due diligence to confirm that the supply of the bowls meets the conditions set out above.
  • Plastic single-use cotton buds (including plastic single-use cotton swabs) can be supplied where all of the following conditions are met:
    • the supply is to a person who uses the item for medical, scientific or forensic purposes only, or to enable supply to a person who uses the items for these purposes (e.g. a distributor who supplies to hospitals)
    • the supply is not for cleaning ears, beauty or cosmetic purposes, or general domestic uses such as cleaning
    • the plastic single-use cotton buds are not for sale, or made available for sale, to a member of the public, unless the cotton bud is part of a permitted kit (i.e. first aid kit or kit used for medical, scientific or forensic testing, such as a COVID-19 test), and
    • the supply is not to a person who would sell, or make available for sale, the cotton buds to members of the public (e.g. a retail pharmacy, supermarket, convenience store or online marketplace), unless the cotton bud is part of a permitted kit.
  • Examples of uses for medical, scientific or forensic purposes include:
    • as part of a COVID-19 test or first aid kit
    • taking samples for a pathology test, or at a crime scene for forensic analysis
    • as part of a kit used for medical purposes, such as for surgery
    • supply by a general practitioner to a patient for medical purposes
    • supply to a dental clinic, aged care facility or veterinary clinic for staff to use for medical purposes
    • cleaning scientific equipment by a research laboratory.
  • If you are a manufacturer, producer or wholesaler, you may only supply plastic single-use cotton buds if you have undertaken due diligence to confirm that the supply of the cotton buds meets the conditions set out above. You do not have to undertake due diligence where the plastic single-use cotton buds are supplied as part of a permitted kit.

Due diligence

Due diligence involves having mechanisms in place to confirm that the above conditions are met before supplying the items. Examples of due diligence may include: requiring a declaration against the above conditions; requesting email confirmation that the above conditions are met; or undertaking checks of the business type, before supplying the items.  

You should also consider whether any further inquiries or measures are necessary depending on the circumstances.