Earlier in March, the Victorian Government announced a phase out ban of single use plastics by 2023. This includes products such as polystyrene containers, straws, plates, cutlery and cotton buds, with departments starting their phase out in 2022. Single use plastic items make up approximately one third of Victoria’s litter per annum, with many of the single use items classified as economically unviable or difficult to recycle. The government is encouraging reusable items instead of single use plastics, such as metal, paper or bamboo alternatives. Emergency services, scientific and medical activities that may require single use plastic will not be affected.
The government proposes to work with communities and stakeholders to finalise the delivery and design of the ban, emphasising the importance of education and behavioural change as a key aspect in achieving a phase out.
Equilibrium has worked extensively on packaging and problem wastes, leading a similar project with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) to improve the environmental impacts of packaging. Through exploration of this sector, there is a need to consider the following when delivering and the designing the ban:
> What is the evidence of defining single use plastic and prioritising any phase out? It is paramount to ensure an evidenced-based approach to definitions, criteria setting and identifying potential approaches to phasing out materials.
> Have the potential subsidiary outcomes been considered? For example, the reduced access to products for vulnerable sectors of the community? In this case, the hospitality industry has already cautioned that the ban may place the cost of the alternatives on the consumers.
>Whether there are appropriate viable alternatives, and what are the environmental impacts of using and or producing alternative products such as metal and bamboo cutlery?
>The scope of the ban, will support range from innovation right through the supply chain? To achieve genuine environmental improvement, support needs to start with manufacturers, brand owners and product retailers.