Lightweight bags, straws and cutlery will be included in a $356 million NSW government plan to further cull plastic from the waste stream.
Green groups have welcomed the long-awaited move but say the government should not wait three years to review the use of other plastics including heavyweight grocery shopping bags and single-use plates and cups.
Lightweight plastic bags will be phased out within six months of new laws passing parliament, which is expected to happen by the end of the year.
Within 12 months, plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers will also be on the banned list along with Styrofoam cups, plates and containers, plastic-stemmed cotton buds and microbeads in products such as handwash and make-up.
Environment Minister Matt Kean on Sunday also said “green bins” for food and organic waste will be rolled out to every household across the state.
The plastics plan will cost $356 million over five years.
“The single-use items we are phasing-out will stop an estimated 2.7 billion items of plastic litter from ending up in our environment and waterways over the next 20 years,” Mr Kean said in a statement.
“We can’t keep sending our scraps to languish in landfill when there are huge opportunities to turn our trash into treasure.”
The NSW government has committed to achieving zero emissions from organics in landfill by 2030 and also wants to extract more biogas from waste.
NSW aims to cut total waste per capita by 10 per cent, cut litter by 60 per cent and triple the plastic recycling rate by 2030.
Exemptions to the rules will be provided for those who rely on single-use plastics for disability or health needs, Mr Kean said.
WWF Australia says the action to keep some of the most problematic plastics out of the ocean and landfill is very welcome.
But it can’t understand why the government will wait so long to consider banning others including the cheap, heavyweight bags sold at grocery stores, coffee cups and lids.
“There are viable, sustainable alternatives to each of these items, so there’s no reason to delay action for another three years,” WWF’s Kate Noble said in a statement.
“An estimated 130,000 tonnes of plastic flows into Australia’s environment each year.”
The Australian Food and Grocery Council, meanwhile, said in a statement that it welcomed the plan. It said food and grocery manufacturers were aware of the environmental damage plastics create, and aim to reduce plastics use.
“Balancing the needs to preserve food, reduce food waste and ensure community health and safety by producing high quality food and grocery products while increasing recycled content and improving the end-of-life management of packaging is a complex task,” AFGC chief executive Tanya Barden said.
“The food and grocery sector supports the plastic action plan, which strikes a balance for all sectors to collaborate and develop a much-needed plastics circular economy.”
Mr Kean said that on the current trajectory, there would be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish by 2050.