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From 1 September, all Queensland can no longer supply banned single-use plastic items, unless they are an exempt organisation.

Organisations that will no longer be able to provide a banned item include: restaurants, cafes, bars, takeaway food shops, party suppliers, supermarkets, packaging suppliers, market stalls, not-for-profit organisations (including charities and community groups), online stores and many more.

1. ACT NOW

IMPORTANT

  • The ban applies regardless of whether the items are sold or given away.
  • The same rules apply to items supplied in packets to customers, such as bulk packets of straws or cutlery sold in party supply or catering outlets.
  • There are specific organisations which are exempt from the ban - check here>

ITEMS

Single-use plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers

  • The ban applies to:
    • single-use plastic straws, stirrers, swizzle sticks, forks, spoons, knives, sporks, splayds, chopsticks and food picks.
  • The ban does not apply to:
    • serving utensils (e.g. tongs, serving spoons), or
    • items included in shelf-ready pre-packaged food and beverage items (e.g. a straw attached to a juice box).

Single-use plastic bowls & plates

  • The ban applies to:
    • unenclosed single-use plastic bowls or plates, including those made from expanded polystyrene.
  • The ban does not apply to:
    • bowls or plates in shelf-ready pre-packaged food and beverage items (e.g. bowls in frozen meals),
    • servingware (e.g. platters, serving bowls),
    • other takeaway containers (e.g. sushi containers, triangle sandwich containers), or
    • bowls and containers with lids (noting that just placing a lid on a bowl without need for this is not in the spirit of the legislation).

Expanded polystyrene takeaway food containers & cups

  • The ban applies to:
    • single-use takeaway food containers and cups made from expanded polystyrene (EPS).
  • The ban does not apply to:
    • EPS trays (like those used for raw meat, fruit or vegetables),
    • EPS business-to-business transport containers,
    • EPS packaging like that in whitegoods,
    • EPS in shelf-ready pre-packaged goods, or
    • other containers not made from EPS.

STILL UNSURE?

Don't wait to find out if your items are impacted, contact the National Retail Association for advice.

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Important points to note:

  • Claims of “biodegradable”, “degradable”, “environmentally-friendly” and “plastic-free” do not guarantee that they meet Australian composting standards, and some may cause more environmental harm if customers do not dispose of them correctly.
  • Single-use alternatives which contain compostable plastics (such as PLA or PHA) must meet Australian Standards. These plastics require specific conditions to break down and can still cause harm if littered. Businesses considering these items should check whether they comply with:
  • You will need to provide clear and legible information about these certifications (e.g. labelling, invoice, order records).
  • General claims and international certifications (e.g. TUV, OK Compost) will not be accepted.

The National Retail Association recommends avoiding compostable plastics if there are other alternatives available. Compostable plastics may be a viable alternative for other items which need to be waterproof, and where appropriate commercial composting collection services (i.e. FOGO bins) exist.

We note that bans on straws, cutlery and stirrers in other jurisdictions do not allow compostable plastics.

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Don't wait to find out if your items are impacted or if they have the correct certification.

Contact the National Retail Association for free advice.

2. CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS

Stop ordering banned items now and look at ways to use up existing stock.

If you have large amounts of unopened stock first, check with your supplier if you can return some. In other jurisdictions, some suppliers have offered to collect unused stock and provide credit towards compliant alternatives.

Otherwise, put the stock aside and register now for the Great Plastics Rescue to have your clean unused excess stock properlyrecycled.

Check out our Instagram to see what other retailers are doing to prepare >

Before looking for alternatives consider not supplying these items. While some consumers are already changing their behaviour, businesses can also help reduce consumption by doing things a little differently.

Ask yourself:

  • Do we need to provide the item to our customers?
    • If most customers take your food home, they are unlikely to need disposable cutlery. Most customers can also consume drinks without a straw.
  • Can we ask the customer if they need the item instead of including it every time?
    • Example: UberEats now ask customers to tick a box if they need cutlery rather than automatically including it.
  • Can you keep the items out of sight and only provide the item if the customer asks?
    • Many businesses keep straws and cutlery behind the counter, just like bags, and only provide them if people ask.

Reducing the items you give away can reduce your waste impact, as well as minimising unnecessary costs to your business.

ADVICE FOR HOTELS: This Booking.com article provides some great tips on how hotels can reduce their impact: https://partner.booking.com/en-gb/help/guides/reducing-plastic-consumption

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Look at whether you can use reusable items, such as those made from metal, glass or ceramic.

Ask yourself:

  • Do most of our customers dine-in? Can we switch to reusable items that can be washed and reused?
    • You may be able to switch to dishwasher-safe reusable items and reduce the costs of giving large volumes of disposable items away.
  • What can we do to encourage customers to bring their own reusable items?
    • Some businesses offer a discount to customers who bring their own reusable items. This can even be a promotional tool, such as positive branding or offering loyalty points.
  • Can you promote a reusable option to customers for a reasonable price?
    • Some businesses sell branded reusables to promote their business. Why not trial a few options such as reusable cutlery sets on your counter?

There has been significant growth in customers wanting more sustainable actions by businesses, even if they do not mention it to you directly. There is a commercial opportunity to align your brand with this demand now and as it continues to grow in the future.

If you decide that you still need disposable alternatives, talk to your supplier about the best alternatives for your situation.

First consider non-plastic materials like paper, wood, sugarcane or bamboo. Check that they are fit-for-purpose, food safe, and that they do not contain any plastic or compostable plastic (certification required).

What are other retailers doing?

Check out our Instagram feed as our team visits thousands of retailers across QLD >

  • Straws
    • Paper straws are the most popular choice, and come in varying thicknesses, diameters (such as the wide straws needed for bubble tea), and colours. You may want to check for certification that the pulp is sustainably-sourced (e.g. FSC certification - more info>).
    • If you select another material, such as sugarcane straws, check if they contain plastic or compostable plastic as most have this in the glue or binding (and therefore would need Australian composting certification).
    • The NRA does not recommend compostable plastic straws as there are other alternatives, consumers may not understand that they need commercial composting disposal, and these items are banned in other jurisdictions.
  • Stirrers
    • Wooden sticks (often called paddle-pop sticks) are the cheapest and most popular alternative. You may just want to offer metal spoons on your counter if people simply stir their coffee and then leave.
  • Cutlery
    • Wooden cutlery is available in various shapes and sizes. Cutlery made from bamboo is also popular.
    • The NRA does not recommend compostable plastic cutlery as there are other alternatives, consumers may not understand that they need commercial composting disposal, and these items are banned in other jurisdictions.
  • Bowls
    • Sugarcane pulp (often called 'bagasse') is becoming very popular as it is made from sugarcane waste products and is able to hold hot and moist foods. Uncoated cardboard boxes or clamshells are also a popular option.
  • Plates
    • As with bowls, sugarcane bagasse and cardboard are the most popular and cost-effective replacements for plates.
  • EPS takeaway food containers
    • Most retailers stopped using EPS takeaway food containers over a decade ago, with most switching to uncoated cardboard clamshells or sugarcane bagasse containers. 
  • EPS cups
    • Most retailers stopped using EPS cups years ago, with paper or cardboard cups being most common. Please note: most coffee cups are lined with plastic or compostable plastic to make them waterproof. These cups do not need to meet composting certification under the ban, but it is good practice to check so you can provide accurate advice on disposal to your customers. Some coffee cups are promoted as plastic-free but to the NRA's current knowledge, no coffee cup is currently able to be made to be 100% plastic free. We encourage retailers to check the disposal method required for your cups - landfill or commercial composting. Some retailers have also introduced cup collection systems to collect and recycle plastic-lined coffee cups at specific facilities.

Scroll down this page or click here to see common alternatives.

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Ensure you check that the items you plan to purchase are fit for their intended purpose and that they are food safe - even if they are made from a 'natural' material.

Ask yourself:

  • Do they need to be waterproof or heat-resistant?
  • Does our food or drink require specific elements (e.g. wide diameter for bubble tea straws, deep spoons for soups or laksa)?
  • Do they need lids to prevent spillage or risk to customer/staff safety (e.g. hot liquids)?
  • Will they be stored in hot or wet environments?
  • Have any potentially toxic chemicals been added during manufacture, such as PFAS in cardboard?

More sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic items generally cost more per item.

Some businesses may choose to increase the retail prices of products to incorporate the increased cost. You may like to explain the price increase to customers and why you are making the change to more sustainable options.

Some businesses can reduce overall costs by reducing the amount of disposable items you give away, by placing them out of reach and only available on request, or by changing to reusable, washable items if customers dine onsite.

You may even want to trial selling reusable items to not only reduce costs, but to promote your brand position. For example, camping-style cutlery sets can be purchased at department stores for as little as $1. Many cafes sell reusable cups or offer a discount to customers who BYO.

The National Retail Association does not endorse any supplier, but businesses can contact us for our opinion on fair market prices and value.

You may need to examine daily practices of your business and what processes need to change to accommodate the changes you have decided to make.

For example:

  • Decided not to offer an item anymore? Inform your staff and give your customers plenty of notice. Allow for a transition period and be sure to tell customers when you will cease to offer items and why.
  • Decided to introduce reusables? Look at how your team will collect and wash items.
  • Decided to change to sustainable alternatives and increase prices? Inform your team and tell customers about the change (and why) well in advance. Look at introducing discounts or incentives for customers who BYO items.

You may also need to look at where and how items are stored as they may need dry, cool storage areas to maintain shelf life.

Some of the ways to exhaust stock may include:

  • Contact your supplier for return options to see if you can swap the items for compliant items.
  • If your business operates across states see if you can move the items to a state where the items are currently not banned.
  • Contact exempt organisations and see if they are taking donations.
  • Contact your local council to determine if the items can be recycled.
  • Take home or give them to staff as the items can still be used in domestic settings.

If you still have large amounts of clean, unused stock consider registering it for recycling with the Great Plastics Rescue.

Great Plastic Rescue >

We recommend asking your supplier to provide answers to these questions in writing when ordering alternatives.

It is an offence to supply banned items, or to provide false or misleading information about whether an item is banned from 1 September 2021. If a business can provide proof that it believed on reasonable grounds that the product was not a prohibited product, it will not be held liable. The person/business which supplied it to that business will then be investigated.

Key questions:

  • Do these items comply with the Queensland legislation that came into effect on 1 September 2021?
    • If no, do not purchase.
  • Are the items food grade quality? Are they certified as such?
    • If no, you may want to consider other options.

For straws, stirrers, cutlery, bowls and plates:

  • Do they contain plastic of any description?
    • If it contains standard plastic (fossil-fuel based), do not purchase.
    • If it contains compostable plastic, it must meet Australian Standard AS 5810-2010 or AS 4736-2006.

You may also want to ask if your supplier can take back unused stock in exchange for credit on compliant items. Suppliers are not obliged to take back stock but may want to secure your next purchases.

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ABOUT COMPOSTABLE PLASTICS

Compostable plastics require specific conditions to break down and can still cause harm to wildlife or the environment if littered.

Single-use alternatives for straws, stirrers, cutlery, bowls and plates which contain compostable plastics (such as PLA or PHA) must meet one of the following Australian Standards:

  • AS 5810-2010 (Suitable for Home Composting) or
  • AS 4736-2006 (Suitable for Commercial Composting).

General claims and international certifications (e.g. TUV, OK Compost) will not be accepted.

Please note that the ban includes the following offences:

  • provide false or misleading information to another person about whether or not a plastic item is compostable; or
  • do not provide clear and legible written information about whether a plastic item is compostable.

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In Australia, the Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) is the governing body that sets and provides the standards for packaging based on its level of biodegradability.

AS 5810-2010 (Suitable for Home Composting)

To be certified home compostable, the materials must undergo a stringent test regime outlined by AS5810 and carried out by recognised independent accredited laboratories to the AS5810 standard.

AS 4736-2006 (Suitable for Commercial Composting)

To be certified industrially compostable, and carry the seedling logo, suitable biopolymer materials must undergo a stringent test regime outlined by AS4736 and carried out by recognised independent accredited laboratories to the AS4736 standard.

Read more about certification on the ABA website>

Evidence

Your supplier should be able to provide you with proof of this certification. If your supplier can’t provide proof of certification under one of these certifications then the items would be considered banned.

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The National Retail Association recommends avoiding compostable plastics if there are other viable alternatives available.

Certified compostable plastics may be a viable alternative for other items which have no other waterproof, viable alternatives, and where appropriate commercial composting collection services exist.

Though new collection systems are being rolled out, the majority of households across Australia do not have access to commercial composting bins or "food and garden organics (FOGO)" bins. Note that "green" bins are not necessarily FOGO bins and may only be designed for garden waste depending on your council rules.

Claims of “biodegradable”, “degradable”, “environmentally-friendly” and “plastic-free” do not guarantee that they meet Australian Standards, and some may cause more environmental harm if customers do not dispose of them correctly.

We note that bans on straws, cutlery and stirrers in other jurisdictions do not allow compostable plastics.

 

Check out our Instagram to see what other retailers are using >

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3. EDUCATE YOUR STAFF & CUSTOMERS

Consult and prepare your team for the changes your business will be making so they can understand and support a positive transition.

Make sure you inform staff of the correct way to dispose of items so they provide accurate advice to customers. It is an offence to provide false or misleading information to another person about whether or not a plastic item is compostable. It's good practice to ensure your team knows whether your items are home compostable or commercially compostable and that they relay this accurately to customers.

Many retail employees are highly supportive of positive environmental initiatives, as are many customers. However, you should prepare your team to handle questions and potential challenges while customers get used to the change.

We recommend displaying posters in your store and any materials which notify customers of the reason for changes or price increases. Make sure you include why you have made the change and that you value their support of this environmental initiative.

You may also wish to display signage informing customers that you've adopted a policy to only supply disposable items on request.

Businesses can refer customers to this website or the hotline (1800 844 946) should they have questions or concerns about the ban.

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The National Retail Association (NRA) have visited over 300 retail precincts across Queensland to help businesses learn more about the ban and how to comply.

Community groups and not-for-profit organisations can also attend one of Boomerang Alliance's sessions, see schedule here.

To see what other retailers are doing to prepare, check out our Instagram here.

to single-use plastic items

Slide across the images below to see banned items and common alternatives

Straws & Utensils

The ban applies to single-use plastic straws, stirrers, swizzle sticks, forks, spoons, knives, sporks, splayds, chopsticks and food picks.

Firstly, consider if you need to keep supplying these items as many customers may not need them. Then look at reusable items made from metal or glass.

If you need a disposable alternative, consider sustainably-sourced paper, wood or bamboo. Single-use alternatives which contain compostable plastics must meet Australian Standards.

The ban does not apply to serving utensils like tongs, or items included in shelf-ready, pre-packaged food and beverage goods (eg. straw attached to juice box).

Banned Allowed
examples of banned straws and utensils

Bowls & Plates

The ban applies to unenclosed single-use plastic bowls or plates, including those made from expanded polystyrene.

Firstly consider reusable plates and bowls made from metal or ceramic or dishwasher-safe reusable plastic items.

If you need a disposable alternative, consider sustainably-sourced paper, sugarcane pulp (bagasse), wood or bamboo. Single-use alternatives which contain compostable plastics must meet Australian Standards.

The ban does not apply to servingware, bowls and containers with lids, bowls or plates in shelf-ready pre-packaged food and beverage goods (e.g. bowl in frozen meal), or other takeaway containers (e.g. sushi containers, triangle sandwich containers).

Banned Allowed
examples of banned plates and bowls

Expanded Polystyrene
Takeaway Food
Containers & Cups

The ban applies to single-use takeaway food containers and cups made from expanded polystyrene (EPS).

First consider reusable containers or cups made from glass, metal, ceramic, or reusable plastic.

If you need a disposable alternative, consider sustainably-sourced paper, sugarcane pulp (bagasse), wood or bamboo. Single-use alternatives which contain compostable plastics must meet Australian Standards.

The ban does not apply to EPS trays (e.g. trays used for raw meat, fruit or vegetables), EPS business-to-business transport containers, or EPS in shelf-ready pre-packaged goods.

Banned Allowed
examples of banned polystyrene items

Have an unusual question? Businesses can call the National Retail Association for advice on 1800 844 946.