Single-Use Plastics By-Law Information

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Background

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 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. 

The Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index, which in 2015/2016 primarily focused on suburban areas of Hobart provides some insight into the composition of this litter. That year it found that approximately 16% of the litter items audited were plastic, but only 2.4% were plastic spoons/cutlery, straws, and plastic takeaway container and cups. Keep Australia’s 2016/2017 litter count also found that the amount of litter in Tasmania increased by 6% compared to the previous year.

Compostable packaging is not considered to be a solution to litter. No 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, an overall reduction in the consumption in packaging, and a solution for recovery of compostable litter.

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

 

Single use plastics by-law

The Council voted on 4 March 2019 to pass the single use plastics by-law. The next steps are submitting the proposed by-law(PDF, 113KB) and regulatory impact statement(PDF, 467KB) to the Director of Local Government (state government) for consideration, if satisfactory the director will certify that the Council may commence with public consultation before formally making the by-law. 

An information fact-sheet on the by-law may be viewed here(PDF, 906KB)

Further information and questions about the by-law may be directed to the Manager Environmental Health on 03 6238 2715 or coh@hobartcity.com.au. 

 

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 and consumed. 

  • 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. 

Implementation of this by-law will be staged in order to maximise business engagement and understanding and strongly root the culture change required to make the by-law effective.

It is envisaged that businesses will have six months to a year after the enactment of the by-law to comply with new packaging requirements.

Hard copy information packs or ‘toolkits’ will be provided to all Hobart food businesses – inclusive of replacement product lists. Additionally, educational information sessions for proprietors will be held and one-on-one advice will be available. 

Further information and questions on 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. 

 

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 solution to litter because not even compostable packaging breaks down quickly and harmlessly in the environment. Solutions to litter lie in behavioural change, an overall reduction in the consumption of packaging, as well as the provision of pathways for recovery of compostable litter.

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 and consumed. 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 DKHAC pool 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. 

What are the next steps?

  • The General Manager will submit the proposed by-law and regulatory impact statement to the Director of Local Government (state government) for consideration.
  • If satisfied, the director will certify that the Council may commence a public consultation process.
  • Council will publish a public notice and seek comment for a period of at least 21 days. Council will undertake any additional public consultation as considered necessary during this time.
  • Any public submissions must be considered by the Council.
  • Council will formally make the by-law.

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 two penalty units associated with the single-use plastic by-law is consistent with other by-law infringements such as;

  •  failing to maintain premises used by animals
  • Keeping a rooster
  • Keeping too many bee hives.

The current penalty unit amount is $163 and is set by the State Government. The two penalty units is applicable for an infringement notice which can be issued by a council officer. An eight penalty unit and infringement of up $1300 is assessed 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.

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. 

How will the City enforce the new by-law?

Implementation of this by-law will be staged in order to maximise stakeholder engagement and understanding and strongly root the culture change required to make the by-law effective.

It is envisaged that businesses will have six months to a year after the enactment of the by-law to comply with new packaging requirements.

Hard copy information packs or ‘toolkits’ will be provided to all Hobart food businesses – inclusive of replacement product lists. Additionally, educational information sessions for proprietors will be held and one-on-one advice will be available. 

Were Hobart residents consulted about the proposed by-law?

During the course of 2018, officers from legal and governance, environmental health and cleansing and solid waste teams took the opportunity to undertake wide ranging consultation on the proposed by-law and conducted a range of complimentary activities.

Consultation indicates consumers would welcome a reduction in single-use plastic and support businesses in moving away from non-compostable takeaway items.

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. 

  • Of the 2,962 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.

The project team also engaged a consultant to prepare a regulatory impact statement to fully inform the community of the potential impacts. A copy of the RIS is available to view here(PDF, 467KB) .

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.

  • 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.

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

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.