Single-use plastics by-law information

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The City now has a by-law that bans certain single-use plastic food packaging, which will be enforceable from 1 July 2021.

The by-law is designed to reduce plastic litter and waste going to landfill.

Single-Use Plastics By-Law(PDF, 2MB)

Single-Use Plastics By-Law Information Sheet 2021(PDF, 813KB)

Background

On Monday 9 March 2020, the Hobart City Council resolved to enact the by-law banning the provision of single-use plastic takeaway food packaging and related items(PDF, 2MB).

Enforcement of the by-law will commence in 2021, following a period of trader and community education and awareness.

It is anticipated that the introduction of the by-law will result in a 600 tonne annual reduction in single-use plastics to landfill.

The Council also resolved to lobby the Tasmanian Government to consider implementing a state wide initiative to reduce single-use plastics.

The by-law aims to restrict the use of single use plastic takeaway packaging. This is not an expansion on the statewide plastic bag-ban legislation, but a wholesale change aimed at achieving a reduction in usage of and a shift away from single use plastics.

There is considerable public momentum for the reduction in availability of unnecessary plastic products to reduce environmental impact. The City maintains a significant litter collection network including hundreds of stormwater litter traps and socks. These traps are already extremely effective in preventing marine pollution in general.

Takeaway packaging is a major contributor to the litter stream in Tasmania. Data from the Environmental Protection Authority Tasmania indicates that up to 50% of the litter stream is comprised of paper and plastic takeaway rubbish. 

Compostable packaging is not considered to be a complete solution to litter. Only some of the compostable takeaway packaging currently on the market breaks down quickly in the environment. Solutions to litter lie in effective campaigns that lead to behavioural change which emphasise an overall reduction in packaging distribution and consumption, increased use of reusable packaging and as a final choice, utilising certified compostable packaging. 

The City has an exemplary record of showing leadership in the field of waste management and recycling and has set an ambitious overall goal towards zero waste to landfill by 2030 consistent with the City's waste strategy

More information can be found on the Single-Use Plastics By-Law Information Sheet(PDF, 813KB).

Additional information for businesses

The by-law only applies to businesses that provide or sell food in packaging that can be taken from the premises for immediate consumption. 

  • The by-law will encourage retailers to replace current single use plastic containers which are smaller than one litre (1L) in volume or an area equivalent to A4 (210 mm by 297 mm) in size. 
  • All packaging larger than these dimensions is excluded.
  • The by-law does not apply where a retailer provides or sells food packaging supplied by the customer (e.g. coffee cups or Tupperware containers); or the customer was not provided food packaging by the retailer (e.g. a bottle of soft drink). 

Our research indicates that a third of Hobart's approximately 300 food and beverage businesses already supply some form of compostable packaging. 

Didn't see an answer to your question?

Questions related to compostable packaging and waste reduction strategies may be directed to the Cleansing and Solid Waste Policy Coordinator on 03 6238 2711 or coh@hobartcity.com.au

Further information and questions about the by-law may be directed to the Environmental Health Team on 03 6238 2711 or coh@hobartcity.com.au.

Do we have a problem with plastic and litter in Hobart?

Plastic pollution is one of the most common forms of marine debris and the waters around Hobart are not immune. Whether it ends up as litter or into landfill, there is considerable public momentum to reduce availability of non-compostable products as a means to reduce environmental impact.

Will compostable packaging fix the takeaway litter issue?

Data from the Environment Protection Authority Tasmania indicates that up to 50% of litter is comprised of takeaway rubbish. Compostable packaging is not considered to be a complete solution to litter because not all compostable packaging breaks down quickly in the environment. Solutions to litter lie in effective campaigns that lead to behavioural change which emphasise an overall reduction in packaging distribution and consumption, increased use of reusable packaging and as a final choice, utilising certified compostable packaging.

Will all businesses be affected by the single-use plastic by-law?

The by-law only applies to businesses that provide or sell food in packaging that can be taken from the premises for immediate consumption. The by-law will encourage retailers to replace current single-use plastic containers which are smaller than one litre (1L) in volume or an area equivalent to A4 (210 mm by 297 mm) in size. All packaging larger than these dimensions is not affected.

The implementation of the by-law will facilitate the replacement of plastics and may encourage innovation and new business opportunities.

The by-law does not apply where a retailer provides or sells food when packaging is supplied by the customer (e.g. coffee cups or Tupperware containers); or the customer was not provided food packaging by the retailer (e.g. a bottle of soft drink).

Will there be a cost?

The costs to each individual business will vary depending on the number and types of packaging products, packing supplier and the size of business operations. The overall cost to the Doone Kennedy Hobart Aquatic Centre café for example was less than 1% of annual turnover and they were required to switch or substitute a wide range of items.

Current Tasmanian packaging suppliers include compostable products among their range, so compliant products can be sourced locally. 

Why is there an infringement associated with non-compliance of the by-law?

Penalties are an essential part of any by-law, however they are a last resort.

The penalty unit amount is set by the State Government and increases annually. Two penalty units are applicable for an infringement notice which can be issued by a council officer. An eight penalty unit infringement may apply if the matter is prosecuted. 

What are the benefits of phasing out single-use plastics in an area?

  • Reduce the impacts of discarded plastic packaging on human health and the wider environment
  • Reduce the volume of plastics being disposed to landfill or ending up as litter
  • Support retailers already supplying compostable takeaway packaging items
  • Foster innovation with respect to the development of alternative products made from natural fibres that rapidly decompose in the environment
  • Educate the community and support them to transition to and adopt the worldwide shift away from plastic takeaway packaging.

Are there alternatives to single-use plastics?

Yes. There are a wide range of alternatives. At most festivals and events you go to now the cups you drink from will be totally organic, as are the plates and bowls your food is served on. Alternatives are paper & cardboard based, and plant starch based products (such as corn). These are readily available and widely used within Hobart already.

Is compostable packaging more expensive than plastic packaging?

Sometimes. In some cases the cost of packaging compliant with the by-law is cheaper than non-compliant packaging, and businesses will save money. We have conducted significant research into replacement products, suppliers, costs and relevant certifications of composability. Where there is a cost increase, this is relatively small but may need to be passed on to the customer.

Will the law further the existing plastic bag-ban legislation by the state?

No. The by-law does not apply to plastic shopping bags or barrier bags. 

Were Hobart residents consulted about the proposed by-law?

During the course of 2018, officers undertook wide ranging consultation on the proposed by-law and conducted a range of complimentary activities.

Consultation indicated consumers welcome a reduction in single-use plastic and would support businesses in moving away from non-compostable takeaway items, by paying a little extra.

A community Your Say Hobart survey conducted between February and March 2018 returned a significant response in favour of reducing the use of single-use plastic. It found: 

  • of the 2962 responses, 96% disagreed when asked “do you think it is appropriate to use single-use plastics?”
  • an overwhelming 90% said they were willing to pay more for food and drinks if it meant that sustainable packaging was used
  • survey responses indicated a sensitivity to how much more consumers would be willing to pay, with around two-thirds willing to pay up to 5% extra
  • while a state government ban was perceived more favourably, 75% of surveyed participants felt that a local government ban would be an effective or highly effective way of getting more takeaway food businesses to use less single-use packaging
  • a ban was perceived to be significantly more effective than the use of support and education.

Single-use plastics by-law - Your Say survey results(PDF, 166KB)

Were Hobart businesses consulted?

A face-to-face business survey was completed by a University of Tasmania master’s degree student. The survey examined current knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of takeaway food business operators in Hobart and the reasons why they chose certain types of packaging products. It found:

  • the majority of respondents agreed that single-use packaging is unsustainable and has a negative impact on the environment
  • businesses explained that they choose products predominantly based on functionality rather than affordability
  • most businesses indicated that they would prefer to see a statewide ban over a local by-law to reduce single-use plastics.

An estimated one third of the City of Hobart’s approximately 300 food and beverage businesses already supplied some form of compostable packaging. In follow up surveys businesses have indicated a favourable response to banning single-use plastic packaging, with a strong understanding of the reasons behind it.

Concerns relating to competition and other impacts were addressed in the Regulatory Impact Statement(PDF, 2MB). The City continues to welcome feedback on an specifically identified problematic products.

Did Hobart communicate with other local councils about the single-use plastics by-law?

The City consulted with other councils through the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) to gauge members’ support of a statewide approach to ban single-use plastics.

A total of 10 councils responded to the survey conducted by LGAT and all indicated they would support a statewide approach to this issue. Five councils indicated they were not likely to consider their own by-law, while two said they might.  

The local government sector then voted unanimously in July 2018 in favour of a City of Hobart motion asking for LGAT to lobby the state government to commit to legislating to phase out single-use plastics across the state.

Regulatory Impact Statement

Resources

For more information and resources to assist businesses and the community transition under the Single-Use Plastics By-Law please view our Resources page.