The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has welcomed the passing of South Australia’s historic new laws to ban single-use plastics – laws that will save the lives of iconic ocean wildlife like whales and dolphins.

Under the laws, which will come into force early in 2021, single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cutlery will be banned. 

12 months after the commencement of the ban, oxo-degradable plastic products, as well as expanded polystyrene cups, bowls, plates and clamshell containers will also be outlawed.

There will be exemptions for people who require single use plastic straws due to a disability or medical condition.

Passed in the SA Parliament this afternoon, the laws make SA the first State or Territory in Australia to ban plastic drinking straws or cutlery.

Shane Cucow, plastics spokesperson for the AMCS, welcomed the Marshall government’s action and said it had cemented the state’s place as Australia’s leader in the fight against wildlife-killing plastics.

“SA has long been ahead of the curve on plastics. They were the first State or Territory to introduce a container deposit scheme way back in 1977 and the first to ban plastic bags in 2009,” Mr Cucow said.

“These historic new laws will prevent lethal plastic straws and cutlery from entering South Australia’s waterways and oceans, potentially saving the lives of countless seabirds, dolphins and whales.

“We know that mother birds are feeding plastic pieces to their baby chicks, mistaking them for food.

“The sharp pieces of these products can cause serious internal injuries or poisoning if eaten. They can get stuck in airways or cause life-threatening blockages. 

“With safe, earth friendly alternatives now available, it’s time to ditch these killer plastics across all of Australia.

“We call on all States and Territories to follow SA’s lead and pass their own laws banning single use plastics. As custodians of the most beautiful and diverse oceans on the planet, together we can be a global leader in the fight against plastic.”

Australia’s National Packaging Targets set a goal to phase out problematic single-use plastics by 2025. 

Similar laws have been tabled in the Queensland parliament targeting single-use plastic straws, cutlery, drink stirrers, plates and bowls. This week is the last chance for Queensland’s draft laws to be passed before the parliament is dissolved for the Queensland State Election. 

The ACT have tabled less ambitious laws that would ban plastic cutlery, drink stirrers and polystyrene food and beverage containers. Their draft laws do not include products like straws, cups, plates and bowls. 

New South Wales and Western Australia recently completed public consultations that canvassed the idea of a ban on single use plastics. They are yet to announce their plans.