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Reducing plastic pollution

The Queensland Government is committed to preserving the health of the environment so generations to come can enjoy the beauty of our natural surroundings.

In Australia and internationally, there is increasing evidence about the harmful impacts on marine fauna and human health of plastic contamination of soils, waterways and marine environments. Over time, plastic litter breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, compounding the problem.

The government is developing a plastic pollution reduction plan to help combat this problem. Part of the plan is taking action to reduce the amount of single-use plastic packaging produced, as this packaging is a prominent source of litter. The first stage of this action is banning plastic shopping bags and introducing a container refund scheme for beverage containers.

Plastic bags

Littered plastic bags cost Queenslanders over $4 million a year in clean-up costs and take thousands of years to fully break down.

Plastic bags are one of the most conspicuous items in the litter stream and pose real threats to land and marine environments.

They often end up in waterways where they endanger marine life. They can also clog drains and waterways, leading to increased risk of flooding.

The department has been talking to stakeholders as part of an investigation into options to restrict the use of single-use plastic bags and reduce the environmental impact from littered bags. Options explored have included:

  • introducing a statewide ban on single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags
  • banning the supply of free single-use plastic shopping bags
  • voluntary retailer action
  • education and awareness
  • better litter management and improved litter infrastructure.

The department hosted a workshop on 14 October 2015, as the first step to start the conversation about what options we can harness to mitigate the impact of plastic entering our marine environment. This forum was an opportunity for all parties to get together and work out how to deal with plastic bag pollution.

Based on consultation to date, the Queensland Government has decided to reduce the amount of plastic pollution in our environment by introducing on 1 July 2018 a ban on the supply of lightweight single-use supermarket-style plastic shopping bags.

By introducing the ban, the Queensland Government will join other states and territories – South Australia, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania – where lightweight plastic bags are already banned.

The government is also working with other states to develop complementary voluntary action to reduce the use of heavier-weight, department store style plastic bags.

The Queensland ban will only come into effect after extensive consultation and preparation, and with enough time to allow retailers and consumers to adjust to the change.

Have your say on the discussion paper

The Queensland Government has released the Implementing a lightweight plastic shopping bag ban in Queensland discussion paper (PDF, 1.9M). This discussion paper seeks feedback on the government’s decision to introduce a ban on the supply of lightweight single-use supermarket-style shopping bags to consumers. The paper also seeks to start a discussion around the options for voluntary action to reduce the use of heavier-weight department store-style plastic bags.

Your feedback and ideas on the topics raised in this discussion paper can be provided online at Get Involved or emailed to .

Drink containers

South Australia and the Northern Territory have already introduced schemes where eligible beverage containers (including containers made from materials other than plastic) can be returned to a container collection point for a refund. These schemes help to lower littering rates and improve recycling.

After a 12-month investigation into the feasibility of a state-based scheme, on 22 July 2016 the Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, the Hon Steven Miles MP, announced that a Queensland container scheme would start in 2018 to tackle litter across the state and improve recycling.

See Container Refund Scheme for information about the Queensland scheme, which will start on 1 July 2018. Your feedback on the implementation of the scheme is currently being sought through a discussion paper.

What you can do

Avoid:

  • use your reusable bags when shopping instead of the single-use bags provided in-store
  • reduce your consumption of single-use drink containers by using refillable drink bottles and containers.

Recycle:

  • keep an eye out for plastic bag recycling stations outside supermarkets, and recycle your plastic bags
  • when away from home, put your single-use recyclable drink containers in the recycling bin, or from 1 July 2018 return these containers for a refund or to make a donation.

Further information

Last updated
17 February 2017