Single use plastics could be banned in the ACT in coming years

The ACT government will consider a potential ban on single-use plastics including straws and cutlery in coming years, but may not act on recommendations for a floor price on plastic bags at supermarkets in Canberra.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said the government wants to expand efforts to cut single use plastics in the ACT. Photo: Jamila Toderas

City Services Minister Chris Steel said the government wants to expand efforts to cut single use plastics in the ACT. Photo: Jamila Toderas

City Services Minister Chris Steel told the Assembly on Tuesday the government was looking to expand its efforts to divert more single-use plastics from landfill, through a discussion paper to be released at some point in the future.

It comes after a review of the government's ban on non-recyclable plastic bags less than 35 microns thick that last year found the use of plastic bags was returning to pre-ban levels, recommending a levy or floor price customers should be charged to buy them.

The ACT Environment Commissioner's review also recommended a mandatory plastic bag disclosure regime, improving governance of the ban and that research be conducted into the potential for more compostable bags to be used as part of a household organic waste collection system.

While Mr Steel said there were a raft of issues with such a levy or floor price, including who would pay it, the potential effects on small retailers and how to ensure supermarkets did not profit from it, the issues would be considered in a coming discussion paper.

He also said a floor price on plastic bags sold at retailers could have the greatest cost impost on those Canberrans least able to afford to change their shopping behaviour to use fewer plastic bags.

Mr Steel also and there was no guarantee increased disclosure of plastic bag use by retailers would change behaviour enough to offset the costs of the extra regulation.

But he said it was time to consider expanding the bag ban to other single use plastics such as straws, cutlery, takeaway containers, plastic-lined coffee cups and balloon sticks, to help the government reach its planned target to divert 90 per cent of ACT waste away from landfill.

"The ACT is not alone in grappling with these issues," he said.

"Community concern has deepened around the impact of our traditionally linear economic model of taking resources, making products, using them and then throwing them away.

"So rather than consulting on altering the existing plastic bag ban as a stand-alone measure, I want the ACT community, businesses and industries to tell us how the ACT should address single-use plastics as well."

Mr Steel said the economic implications of acting on the commissioner's recommendations also needed to be analysed before any decision would be made.

He also said the government would consider other options to replace plastic bags such as those made from calico, jute or hemp, though any unintended environmental effects of such changes would also need to be examined.

The Greens backed the proposed discussion paper, while the Opposition did not speak in the debate in the chamber.

Earlier, Opposition leader Alistair Coe told local radio he thought it premature and an over-reach to be banning other single use plastics and taking further action on plastic bags, questioning how it could be implemented practically.

Mr Coe also suggested the community was already doing as much as it could to recycle plastics, and there was a need to investigate improved recycling solutions, given changing technologies could help, rather than changing consumer behaviour.