ARA calls for national alignment on phase-out of single-use plastics

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has called on the federal government to help facilitate national consistency on the phase-out of single-use plastics.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra says complex state and territory legislation includes a phase-out of 18 separate single-use plastic items across eight different jurisdictions – resulting in dozens of different deadlines to be met by retailers and communicated to customers.

“Addressing environmental challenges is a top priority for the retail industry. We recognise the devastating impact that plastics have on the natural environment, particularly on the health of marine life, and our sector is committed to being a part of the solution,” he says.

“Retailers understand the important role they have to play in addressing plastic pollution, but the lack of a national approach is making the phase-out of single-use plastics more complex and more costly than necessary and is undermining the effectiveness of the change.”

The ARA highlights the complexity of the different bans below:

“In our retail Net-zero Roadmap, we call out the need to invest in sustainable packaging to eliminate the use of single-use plastics, and many of our largest members are scaling up innovative solutions to replace plastic with other materials or do away with single-use packaging all together,” says Mr Zahra.

“The sector has heard community concerns and is responding to the call for change, but the different approaches and timelines being adopted by each state and territory has made this much more costly and complex than is necessary.

“We marked an important milestone last month when NSW became the last state to ban the use of lightweight plastic shopping bags, 13 years after South Australia first made the change. We estimate that since that time, the rules governing the phase-out of single-use plastics have changed 18 times in different jurisdictions across the country, moving the sector further away from national consistency.

“We commend the states and territories for being proactive in driving these changes so far, but we now have a complex program with different single-use plastics being phased out at different times in different parts of the country. For retailers that operate in multiple jurisdictions, this is a headache they could do without.

“We’d like to see the federal government bring together industry, community and the states and territories to develop a national framework that creates alignment across the jurisdictions, with a mutually agreed timeline for the phase-out of single-use plastics that they can all stick to.

“With plastics research on the global agenda in our memorandum of understanding with the US, it’s important to get alignment nationally as a basis for our global alignment.”

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