Single-use plastic ban and plastic alternatives

From 1 September 2021, the Queensland Government introduced a ban on a number of single-use plastic items including single-use straws, stirrers, plates, bowls, cutlery, and expanded polystyrene takeaway food containers and cups.

Similar bans on single-use plastic items exist or have been pledged in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory.

Plastic alternatives and how to dispose of them

As we move away from single-use materials, a wide range of alternative materials is now available. Many of these materials are labelled - biodegradable, compostable, recyclable - and it can be confusing to know how to dispose of them.

The most sustainable product is a reusable product. The easiest way to avoid single-use packaging waste is to not use it in the first place by bringing your own reusable cutlery, water bottle, or metal straw wherever you go. Businesses may also consider offering affordable reusable alternatives.

Knowing the differences between these materials, and which bin to put them in, will continue to support our collective efforts to reduce waste to landfill, and reduce contamination in our kerbside bins.

Biodegradable

Biodegradable products are usually made from plastic with chemicals added, causing them to break down into smaller pieces. This can lead to micro-plastics being released into the environment, and residents are encouraged to avoid packaging marked as 'biodegradable'.

Disposal

Items labelled 'biodegradable' are not recyclable and must be placed in your general waste bin (red lid).​​​

Compostable

There are two types of compostable packaging or serveware:

  1. home compostable
  2. industrial compostable.

Home compostable

Home compostable materials refer to packaging that has been certified to Australian Standard - AS5810: Biodegradable plastics suitable for home composting.

Disposal

There are three ways to dispose of home compostable products.

  1. Home composting bin or worm farm.
  2. At your local community composting hub (compostable bags are not accepted).
  3. General waste bin.

Industrial compostable

Compostable products are sometimes labelled bio-plastics or eco-plastics. For an item to be called compostable, it must be certified to the Australian Standard - AS4736: 2006 Biodegradable plastics suitable for composting and other microbial treatment.

HIgh temperature and specific conditions are needed to decompose bio-plastic items.

Disposal

There are two ways to dispose of bio-plastic products.

  1. Industrial and commercial-scale composting facilities.
  2. General waste bin.

How to dispose of reusable products

Use the table below to help guide you on the correct disposal of reusable products.

This table includes information on the disposal of reusable products including material type and disposal option.
Material type Disposal option
Wooden, bamboo, and leaf products
  • Home compost bin and/or worm farm
  • General waste bin (red lid)
Ceramic
  • Donate to an op shop if the item is in good condition
  • General waste bin (red lid)
  • Repurpose for mosaic art
Reusable hard plastic
  • Donate to an op shop if the item is in good condition
  • General waste bin (red lid)
Paper plates and cups Recycle bin (yellow lid)
Cardboard
  • Home compost bin and/or worm farm
  • Recycle bin (yellow lid)
Bio-plastics (sugar cane or cornstarch) General waste bin (red lid)
Metal cutlery and camping serve ware
  • Donate to an op shop if the item is in good condition
  • General waste bin (red lid)
  • Recycle at one of Council's resource recovery centres

Making more sustainable choices

While compostable materials will eventually break down in a home or industrial composting facility, they are a single-use product requiring resources to manufacture and transport, which contributes to carbon emissions. There is currently no collection system for residential/industrial compostable items, meaning the majority will end up in landfill.

More information

For more information on the ban, refer to the Queensland Government website.

Businesses looking for further information can also refer to the following websites:

Last updated: 15 October 2021
Topics: waste