South Australia announcement provides much needed certainty for phase-out of single-use plastics bans

The largest and most diverse industry body for retail, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), has today welcomed the South Australian Government’s clear guidance for the continued phase-out of single-use plastics across the SA economy.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said that while national consistency remains the preferred approach for the retail sector, the guidance provided by the South Australian Government sends a clear signal and reasonable timeframes about the next three years of phase-outs.

“The bans announced today give retailers the information and time they need to transition away from single-use plastics to alternative products,” said Mr Zahra.

“Addressing the challenge of plastic pollution remains a critical issue for the retail sector. We need well considered, carefully planned approaches to phasing out single-use products to deliver strong compliance and positive environmental results, at the lowest cost.

“We also congratulate the South Australian government on its consultation process and willingness to make common-sense changes, like aligning with Queensland’s September phase-out dates, to reduce complexity and the cost of compliance for national retailers,” said Mr Zahra.

The bans, announced by Deputy Premier The Hon Susan Close MP, outline the phase-outs which will take effect on 01 September each year for the next three years.

In 2023, plastic-shafted cotton buds plus plastic plates and bowls will be banned. In 2024, bans will be extended to include thicker plastic carry bags and barrier bags for produce, as well as an expansive list other single-use plastic items. In 2025, the Government has announced that plastic fruit stickers, soy sauce fish and plastic items attached to pre-packaged food will be phased out.

The retail sector is committed to the phase-out of single-use plastics but even the considered, reasonable approach announced by South Australia raises questions about investment in commercialising cost-effective alternatives to single-use plastics and investment in the infrastructure required to collect and process these alternatives.

“We are happy to be part of the solution to a problem that is partially of our making. However, we need government to establish the regulatory framework to minimise irritants in managing the shift away from the status quo, in particular some of the challenges with weights and measures for produce bags.

“We would also encourage government to continue investing in innovation that will make it easier for retailers and the community to manage this transition.

“For example, banning single-use coffee cups requires a global solution to a global problem. We’d love to see government investing more in innovative Australian solutions to solve for some of these big global challenges,” said Mr Zahra.

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