Lightweight plastic bags will be banned in NSW from the 1st of June, marking a transition away from single-use plastics.

Are we talking all plastic bags??

Starting from this Wednesday, lightweight plastic bags of 35 microns or less will be outlawed in NSW. This includes compostable and bioplastic bags.

However, this doesn’t include thicker plastic bags like the ones at your local Coles and Woolies, or important ‘barrier bags’ such as bin liners, bags used for medical items, produce and deli bags, compost caddy liners, and doggy waste bags.

Currently, single-use plastic items and packaging make up 60% of all litter in NSW. The ban should prevent almost 2.7 billion items of plastic litter from entering the NSW Environment over the next 20 years.

Read more: 20 Hacks for Plastic Free Hiking (& Your Daily Life)

Is it just plastic bags?

As of the 1st of June, only thin plastic bags of 35 microns or less will be banned, however, NSW will see more single-use plastic items outlawed in November as part of the NSW Plastics Action Plan. From the 1st of November, other single-use plastics will be banned including;

  • single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls, and cotton buds
  • expanded polystyrene food ware and cups
  • rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads

However, there will be some exemptions, for example, plastic straws will be available for individuals with disabilities or medical needs.

Read more: 5 Ways You Can Protect Our Wild Places


What’s wrong with compostable and bioplastic alternatives?

Now it may come as a surprise that compostable and bioplastic bags are included in tomorrow’s ban, but the NSW government has pointed out that ‘they are just as much of an environmental problem as traditional plastic’.

In fact, compostable and bioplastic bags are only biodegradable when they’re specially treated in an industrial composting facility. So when these bags are littered they cause exactly the same problems as regular single-use plastic bags.

Read more: These Legends Are on a Mission to Clean Up Australia’s Outback


Why now?

NSW is the very last state to ban single-use plastic bags, with South Australia implementing a ban as early as 2009. In fact, a lot of major retailers have already transitioned away from using single-use plastic bags such as Woolworths and Coles removing them from their stores in 2018.

According to the NSW Environment Minister, James Griffin, NSW wanted to ensure a thoroughly planned out and robust strategy for phasing out plastics. Griffin argues that,

‘Our single-use ban that comes into effect next week and then followed by the more comprehensive one in November will see us through to the head of the pack nationally.’

All in all, this is fantastic news for us NSW explorers. Fingers crossed this means more nature and less trash on the trail!


Feature photo thanks to @solayesnider