Plastic Straws, Cutlery, Cups Could Be Banned Within Months

Plastic cutlery, straws and drink stirrers are to be banned in South Australia, with draft legislation expected to be released for public discussion this year.

South Australia's environment minister, David Speirs, wants the state to become the first in the country to ban single-use plastics including drinking straws and cutlery.

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Speirs said he hopes to introduce laws banning the single-use items into the SA state parliament next year.

The state will later move to ban polystyrene cups and polystyrene takeaway containers, but no decision has been made yet on plastic bags, coffee cups and plastic takeaway containers.

These could soon be a thing of the past in Adelaide. Photo: Getty

"SA is continuing to lead the nation and set the agenda in recyclables and waste management," Speirs told the Adelaide Advertiser.

"We led the way with our container-deposit scheme, we were ahead of the pack on plastic bag reform and now we will lead the country on single-use plastics."

It's the latest incremental plastic intervention in Australia, coming shortly after the country marked a year since the controversial -- at the time, at least -- decision from supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths to cut back on single-use plastic bags.

Plastic Bags
Bye bye bags. Photo: Getty Images.

Stopping the distribution of single-use plastic-bags by major supermarkets has prevented an estimated 1.5 billion bags going into circulation, and into landfill. The National Retail Association said there had been an 80 percent drop in consumption of single-use bags.

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Various retail giants like McDonalds have flagged plans to drastically cut back on waste, outlining steps toward phasing out plastic straws and packaging. In July 2018, the fast food chain announced all of its nearly 1000 outlets in Australia would only carry paper drinking straws by 2020 in a bid to be more eco-friendly.

The Starbucks coffee empire has also said it will cut plastic straws from its 28,000 stores worldwide by 2020. The chain churns through nearly one billion straws each year.

Plastic often finds its way to the ocean. Image: Getty Images

The Marriot hotel chain has pledged to eliminate plastics straws from all of properties internationally from 2019, while other large hotel chains have made similar commitments.

Straws, bags and packaging takes an age to break down naturally in the environment, and sadly often make their way into waterways and oceans -- where they become a fatal hazard for wildlife.

A 2016 World Economic Forum report projected there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

They can be ingested by animals like whales, dolphins and turtles, who mistake the clear packaging for their regular prey such as jellyfish. Other animals may get tangled up in the plastic, becoming injured, sick or even dying.

Harmful plastic is showing up in even the most remote and pristine parts of the Antarctic, a report released last June found.

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Greenpeace researchers spent three months taking seawater and snow samples from parts of the region, with the majority being found to contain microplastics and polyfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS).

“Plastic has now been found in all corners of our oceans, from the Antarctic to the Arctic and at the deepest point of the ocean, the Marianna Trench," Greenpeace’s Frida Bengtsson said at the time.

“We need urgent action to reduce the flow of plastic into our seas.”

With AAP.