The South Australian government is considering banning single-use plastic products, such as straws and cutlery.
Environment Minister David Speirs will launch two discussion papers on Sunday seeking the views of South Australians on single-use plastics as well as expanding the container deposit scheme.
The aim would be to reduce the environmental impact from litter, improve recycling rates and reduce oil dependence.
Among other things, the paper, Turning the tide on single-use plastic products, suggests state laws could also be used to ban single-use plastic products in a similar way to the 2009 lightweight plastic bag ban.
“Similar legislation could be developed to provide a flexible and long-term framework that enables bans on various single-use plastic products, with varying timeframes and impact assessments,” it said.
The plastic bag ban and the container deposit scheme, which was introduced in SA in 1977, came well ahead of similar schemes interstate.
The paper on the container deposit scheme asks whether other cans and bottles – such as for wine and plain milk – could also attract a 10-cent refund.
Mr Speirs said the paper would maintain SA’s position as a leader in litter reduction.
“I would like our discussion to really focus in on plastic-lined coffee cups, on straws, on the use of certain plastic bags,” he said.
“And also to look what is categorised under our container deposit legislation – I think here is scope to include wine bottles there.
“I think we should have a serious discussion about it with consumers and industry and I look forward to hearing what South Australians have to say about this.”
Proposal welcomed by environment group
Conservation Council of SA chief executive Craig Wilkins strongly welcomed the review.
He said the amount of waste thrown out every year was still increasing.
“Every time we chuck something into landfill or it ends up in the ocean is a wasted opportunity to recycle and reuse and reduce our impact on the planet,” he said.
Adelaide City Council voted in July to ban straws at council-run events and those in the Adelaide Parklands.
The council ran a grant scheme to encourage cafe owners to use compostable takeaway coffee cups with limited success.
Single-use plastic bans have been proposed or implemented overseas, including in Europe and California.
Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas welcomed the discussion, but said the health of the Murray River was a more urgent problem.
“We’ve seen extraordinary events during the course of this week,” he said.
“We know it’s largely man-made, and the fact that we’ve got a state government who wants to talk about plastics but not actually investigate what’s going on with the Murray, which is the lifeblood for our state, we think is concerning.”
Transition period needed for ban
Restaurant and Catering Industry Association deputy chief executive Sally Neville said there would need to be a transition period to any ban on single-use plastics.
But she said many businesses had already noticed the demand from consumers for more sustainable products and were reacting quickly.
“It’s about education of their customer and also a contemporary swell of interest around the reduction of waste more generally,” Ms Neville said.
“There was an expectation when plastic bags were banned in 2009 that the sky would fall and it would be a disaster, but that hasn’t been borne out.
“So I think the public becomes used to these things more quickly than is first expected and the same thing I think would happen in terms of plastic straws being banned.”
Mr Speirs ruled out any help for businesses to transfer to using products not made of plastic.
“There won’t be any specific government help if we move down this track, but what we have in South Australia is Green Industries SA, a body which will provide advice and support and grants and business and community groups to embrace better waste management strategies,” he said.
Green Industries SA estimates South Australians use 255 million straws per year and up to 210 million disposable coffee cups annually.
Medical items, sanitary products and fishing gear would not be included in any ban.
Comment on both discussion papers closes on February 22. They are available on the yourSAy website.