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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.

The problem with plastic bags

It is estimated that 900 million single-use plastic shopping bags are used in Queensland each year.

The majority of these bags end up in landfill; however around two per cent of the bags are littered, which means up to 16 million bags entering the environment in Queensland each year.

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 through entanglement or ingestion.

Littered plastic bags also significantly impact on visual amenity, and can clog drains and waterways, leading to increased risk of flooding.

Restricting the number of plastic bags is part of work in Australia and internationally to reduce the total plastic load in the environment.

Solutions to plastic bag litter

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 the implementation of a communication campaign to inform and educate retailers and consumers about the ban and allow them enough time to adjust to the change.

Consultation on plastic bag measures

Consultation on the Implementing a lightweight plastic shopping bag ban in Queensland discussion paper (PDF, 1.9M) ran for three months and closed on 27 February 2017.

Over 26,000 submissions were received during the consultation period. The results of the consultation will be published on this website.

The discussion paper sought 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 sought to start a discussion around the options for voluntary action to reduce the use of heavier-weight department store-style plastic bags.

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


  • 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.


  • 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
1 March 2017