OUR POLICY ON SINGLE-USE PLASTIC

There is wide range of single use, disposable plastic items that should be avoided or replaced. As an initial step, we have identified a list of six priority plastics that should be dealt with first. They are water bottles, coffee cups/lids, straws, takeaway containers, foodware (cutlery, cups, plates, lids, etc.) and plastic bags. These items particularly form a prolific and/or problematic part of the litter stream, and there are available alternatives to their use.

 

For this reason, we have based the program around the elimination of these key items.

responsible actions

The best option to avoid these items is always to use and reuse the products you already have, preferably non-plastic. In the case of a food retailer, that means providing your customers with your own crockery and utensils.

In the case of takeaway, the best option is for food retailers to provide (or have customers provide) reusable plates, cups, utensils and containers.

For many food retailers, the usual option for takeaway is to provide a range of disposable containers and utensils.  In this case, food vendors should be encouraged to choose options that cause the least impact to the environment.

the conundrum - plastic free does not mean waste free

Many food retailers who provide takeaway use recyclable plastic containers, cups and utensils. However, many of these items are not actually recycled because they are not captured, or they are too small to be sorted at the recycling facility, or (particularly in the case of coffee cups) they are made of a paper composite with a plastic inner lining, making them difficult to recycle, and there is a lack of adequate collection services and facilities they can be taken to. Those few that are recycled are not re-made into new food ware, but usually downcycled into lower-value products. 

Compostable options can be a viable alternative to traditional plastic, however the term 'compostable' can be misleading. Many products claim to be compostable, but are not certified under Australian Standards. Some are not 100% compostable. Additionally, the terms 'compostable' and 'biodegradable' are often used interchangeably and this can be misleading and confusing. Many that are 100% compostable require a commercial composting facility to be properly processed and do not readily break down under natural conditions. However, there are a lack of commercial composting facilities in Australia that these products can be taken to.

Currently, most takeaway items, whether recyclable or compostable, end up in landfill. Those that escape from landfill, or are littered, can persist in the environment and pose specific threats to wildlife. Because these items are usually used away from home and in public areas, they tend to be littered more frequently. In both cases, compostable items are deemed to be a better option than plastic as they generally have a lower environmental footprint.

One outcome our program has identified is the urgent need for better collection services and commercial composting facilities for these products. The best option is a closed loop system that avoids littering and pollution and ensures any discarded items are taken to an appropriate facility and treated according to their Highest Resource Value (ie. reused/ recycled/composted in accordance to their best use). Only where collection services and facilities to reprocess to Highest Resource Value are readily available and accessed can these practices be regarded as good practices.

In an ideal world we would only dine-in at cafes and restaurants or, if taking away, use reusable and returnable containers and utensils. Our position should always favour these options.

 

However, takeaway using disposable containers and utensils is now the norm and this needs to be recognised and addressed.

what we endorse:

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The use of reusable crockery and utensils for the consumption of food and drinks at cafés, restaurants and food vendors (including at events) and by private persons in public places and functions.​

The use of reusable and returnable food ware and containers for food and drink from cafés, restaurants and food vendors (including at events) and by private persons in public places and functions.​

The prohibition of all polystyrene containers and foodware by cafés, restaurants and food vendors (including events) and their use by private persons in public places and functions. Polystyrene is toxic in the environment, is a regular litter item and is usually not recycled. In landfill, as in the environment, it persists and does not break down. The use of polystyrene cups, lids and containers of any kind must stop. Polystyrene can be easily replaced with better alternatives.

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​Banning some products in the take-away context for example, lightweight plastic bags, and thus BYO bags are used instead; or use of refund schemes to maximise return of the item for recycling (e.g. PET drink containers).

​Where reusables are not an option and single-use items are used, we recommend compostable substitutes in line with a hierarchy, where home compostable products certified under Australian Standard is preferred. See our position statement below on our alternative product hierarchy. In all cases, we recommend sustainably sourced products. We recommend clear, specific and credible labelling as to the material used and collection process for composting.

Oxo-degradable/biodegradable plastic products are NOT endorsed. Compostable/biodegradable/degradable plastic bags are NOT endorsed. ​See our position statements below on these items.

Ideally, above items that meet the standards for composting should only be used where there is a guarantee that they will be collected and delivered to an appropriate facility that produces high standard compost. Many of these products may also end up in landfill but there no conclusive evidence to date they will biodegrade adequately. We strongly support collection systems to enable composting to occur.

our position statements

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ALTERNATIVE PRODUCTS HEIRARCHY

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COMPOSTABLE

BIOPLASTICS

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LABELLING & CERTIFICATIONS

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OXOBIODEGRADABLE PLASTIC

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RECYCLABLE VS 

COMPOSTABLE 

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POLYSTYRENE

FOODWARE

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REUSABLE

FOODWARE 

THE PLASTIC FREE PLACES PROGRAM IS AN INITIATIVE OF

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IN PARTNERSHIP WITH

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WITH FUNDING SUPPORT FROM

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