Australia to impose hefty fines for selling plastic straws

SYDNEY, 2 Nov 2022:

The regional government of New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populated state, has strengthened the ban on single use plastics such as plastic dishes, straws and cutlery with fines as high as A$11,000 for small traders supplying these items.

This measure, which came into effect from yesterday (Nov 1), follows a ban on fine plastic bags effective from June 1, which imposes penalties of up to A$275,000 on businesses who continue to supply these items.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) said on its website that “plastic packaging and so-called single-use plastic items make up 60% of all litter in NSW,” which is home to 8.1 million inhabitants: about 32% of the total population of Australia.

The ban includes objects like single use plastic straws, cutlery, plates and glasses, as well as polystyrene food containers, plastic cotton buds, and shampoos or other cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads.

The EPA will impose fines of about A$11,000 on traders and other individuals who supply these banned items, while for businesses, this amount rises to at least A$55,000.

Although the EPA has not clarified how the fines would be enforced, a spokesperson told a local broadcaster they will impose fines of up to A$1,100 on the perpetrators initially and the number could go up to the maximum penalty if the supplier is taken to court.

For big companies that produce or distribute banned products, the A$55,000 fine can be doubled by the court.

These fines are part of a governmental plan aimed at eliminating problematic and unnecessary plastic products by 2025.

NSW already banned single use plastic in March 2022, while other states such Victoria are working towards implementing a similar policy by Feb 2023.

The current Labor government, which won the national elections in May, has launched a push towards environmental conservation and has promised to take more ambitious steps in the policies against the climate crisis, unlike the previous conservative leadership.

The Plastic Management Index, published by the NGO Back to Blue, placed Australia on the 7th place among 25 nations for its overall efforts to control plastic pollution, behind European countries, Japan, the UK and the US.

Australia was ranked 1st for “promoting safe and informed plastic usage,” but 16th for “efficient collection and sorting channels,” according to the report, published in October 2021.