Nature & Wildlife

NSW whales and seabirds beneficiaries of new plastics laws

Australia’s leading ocean conservation organisation has congratulated the New South Wales government for passing legislation to ban single-use plastics next year, including the last minute addition of plastic plates and bowls.

Under the new laws passed today (Tuesday 16 November), lightweight plastic shopping bags will finally be banned in approximately six months, bringing NSW in line with the rest of the country. Plastic bags are considered one of the most lethal plastics for ocean wildlife, entangling turtles and seabirds or causing life threatening internal blockages when eaten. 

From 1 November 2022, plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, expanded polystyrene food service items, plastic cotton bud sticks, and microbeads in cosmetics will also be banned in NSW.

NSW Labor successfully amended the proposed laws to add plastic plates and bowls to the ban, which brings them in line with bans proposed or enacted in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. The amendment was supported by the government, subject to the exclusion of bowls with lids such as those used for hot liquids.

Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) plastics campaign manager Shane Cucow said the laws have turned NSW from a laggard to a leader in the fight against ocean plastics.

“As the state with the largest plastic footprint, these new laws will substantially reduce the plastics flowing into the ocean, saving the dolphins, whales and seabirds that call NSW home,” he said.

“Plastic bags, utensils and straws are some of the most commonly found plastics along our coasts and in our oceans.

“We thank the government for listening to ocean lovers, who have been demanding action to clean up plastic pollution and restore our beautiful marine environment.

“By adding disposable plastic plates and bowls to the laws, the government has brought the laws into line with other states, ensuring consistency across the country.”

Mr Cucow said it was important the laws were soon expanded to include other lethal plastics, expressing disappointment that the government chose not to act on balloons.

An amendment to ban balloon releases was moved by the Animal Justice Party and supported by Labor and the Greens, however it failed by one vote.

“New South Wales and the ACT are the only jurisdictions with laws that explicitly allow the reckless practice of releasing balloons into the sky,” added Mr Cucow.

“Balloons are the biggest plastic killer of seabirds, 32 times more likely to kill birds than hard plastic waste.

“It’s time to end this dangerous practice once and for all.”


A table comparing Australian state and territory commitments on single-use plastics is available here

Notes to editors

Recent statistics released by Tangaroa Blue’s ReefClean Projectshowed that in 2019, 24 tonnes of marine debris was cleared from the Great Barrier Reef alone.

Plastic pollution has also been associated with disease on coral reefs. A recent study of the effects of plastic on 124,000 reef-building corals from 159 reefs in the Asia Pacific Region (including Palm Islands, Whitsunday Islands and Keppel Islands) found the likelihood of disease increases from 4% to 89% when corals are in contact with plastic.

State and territory commitments

South Australia’s ban on single-use plastics commenced on 1 March 2021, banning single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cutlery. On 1 March 2022, polystyrene food & beverage containers as well as oxo-degradable plastics will be added to the ban. Details here.


The ACT Government’s ban on single-use plastic cutlery, drink stirrers and polystyrene food and beverage containers commenced 1 July 2021, with straws, fruit & veggie barrier bags and degradable plastics on the list to be phased out on 1 July 2022 following further consultation. Details here.


The Queensland Government’s ban on single-use plastics commenced on 1 September 2021, banning single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls and polystyrene food & beverage containers. Details here.


The Western Australia Government has committed to ban plastic plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, stirrers, straws, thick plastic bags, polystyrene food containers, and helium balloon releases by 2022. In stage two, now to be completed by 2023, takeaway coffee cups/lids containing plastic, plastic barrier/produce bags, cotton buds with plastic shafts, polystyrene packaging, microbeads and oxo-degradable plastics will be banned. Details here.


Victoria‘s government has committed to ban single-use plastics by February 2023, including single-use plastic straws, cutlery, plates, drink stirrers, polystyrene food and drink containers, and plastic cotton bud sticks. In correspondence with AMCS, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has confirmed oxo-degradable plastics will also be included in the ban. Details here.


Tasmania and the Northern Territory have made no commitments to ban single-use plastics.


 National Commitments

Australia’s National Packaging Targets set a goal to phase out problematic single-use plastics by 2025.

At a meeting of federal, state and territory environment ministers on 15 April 2021, Ministers identified eight ‘problematic and unnecessary’ plastic product types for industry to phase out nationally by 2025 (or sooner in some cases) under the National Waste Policy Action Plan, although this is understood to be a voluntary target. These are lightweight plastic bags; plastic products misleadingly termed as ‘degradable’; plastic straws; plastic utensils and stirrers; expanded polystyrene (EPS) consumer food containers (e.g. cups and clamshells); EPS consumer goods packaging (loose fill and moulded); and microbeads in personal health care products. Details here.

Under the National Plastics Plan, the Commonwealth Government has committed to phase out loose fill and moulded polystyrene packaging by July 2022, as well as expanded polystyrene foodware, oxo-degradable plastics, and PVC packaging labels by December 2022.