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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 March 2021) . . Page.. 644 ..

The government has long been clear about which items it expects to phase out and when. Supported by the results of our consultation, we have a clear plan. The second tranche of products will be phased out 12 months after the commencement of the first tranche. From 1 July 2022, single-use plastic straws, fruit and vegetable barrier bags and all products made from degradable plastic will be banned. Degradable plastic is often sold as being environmentally friendly, but instead of breaking down, it just breaks up into microplastics, which can wreak havoc on our environment, such as our aquatic wildlife. Straws, barrier bags and degradable plastics products have been identified as they also received strong community support for phase-out.

Importantly, we will also undertake detailed consultation with the disability and health communities to develop an exemption to ensure that people who need straws can retain access to them. That is why we delayed the phase-out of straws until the second tranche. We cannot rush making sure that we get this exemption right. We acknowledge the work of other jurisdictions in this space, and look forward to working with our colleagues who have already undertaken detailed consultation with affected stakeholders.

This bill is flexible, with consideration given to how we include additional items in the future, as our understanding of plastic grows with time and the social licence for it expires. Through the bill’s regulation-making power, this legislation is futureproofed and adaptable to changing technologies and economies.

Our decisive but staged approach recognises that at this point in time some single-use plastics are more difficult to phase out than others. Staging our phase-out ensures that we are able to limit unintended consequences wherever possible. We do not want to simply replace one problematic product with another. Items such as plastic-lined single-use coffee cups and lids, single-use plastic dinnerware, boutique and heavyweight plastic bags, and cotton ear buds with plastic sticks remain under consideration for future tranches, from 1 July 2023.

We know there is already innovation happening with plastics and packaging. We thank our Plastic Reduction Task Force and their members for their hard work in this space and the milestones they have been able to achieve as a result. But I reiterate Minister Steel’s words: manufacturers, suppliers and providers of single-use plastic products are on notice. Phase them out. If they cannot be phased out, find a better and more sustainable alternative.

The Plastic Reduction Bill is a robust and vital piece of legislation which represents global best practice, in line with community expectations. The bill will help to reduce the prevalence of single-use plastics that litter our bush capital, while also being flexible to ensure that the needs of vulnerable Canberrans are met via exemptions. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

MR PETTERSSON (Yerrabi) (5.00): The Plastic Reduction Bill represents a joint effort and commitment of government, industry, business and the ACT community in shaping Canberra’s future as an innovative and responsible jurisdiction, working to reduce our waste to landfill and protect our beautiful and unique environment.

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